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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Ovarian Cancer, Version 1.2017


Testing for ovarian cancer

Blood tests

Blood tests

Doctors test blood to look for signs of disease and

assess your general health. These tests are not used

to confirm (diagnose) ovarian cancer. But, abnormal

results may signal there’s a problem with certain

organs or body systems.

Abnormal results may be caused by ovarian cancer

or other health conditions. Blood tests are given

along with other initial tests to assess for ovarian

cancer. These tests may be repeated to check how

well cancer treatment is working and to check for

side effects.

For a blood test, your doctor will insert a needle into

your vein to remove a sample of blood. Blood is often

removed from a vein in the arm. The needle may

bruise your skin and you may feel dizzy afterward.

The blood sample will then be sent to a lab for

testing. The types of blood tests used for ovarian

cancer are described next.

CBC (complete blood count)

A CBC measures the number of red blood cells,

white blood cells, and platelets. Your doctor will want

to know if you have enough red blood cells to carry

oxygen throughout your body, white blood cells to

fight infections, and platelets to control bleeding.

Your blood counts may be abnormal—too low or too

high—because of cancer or another health problem.

Blood chemistry profile

A blood chemistry profile measures the levels of

different chemicals in your blood. Chemicals in your

blood come from your liver, bones, and other organs

and tissues. Doctors use this test to assess the

health of organs such as your liver and kidneys.

For example, doctors can test your total serum

protein levels during a blood chemistry profile. This

total serum protein level (measures albumin and

globulin) will help your doctors learn more about your

long-term nutritional status. He or she will want to

know if your body is getting enough nutrients from


Abnormal blood chemistry levels—too high or too

low—may be a sign that an organ isn’t working well.

Abnormal levels may also be caused by the spread

of cancer or by other diseases. Thus, your doctor will

consider your health and look at the whole profile

when it comes to blood test results.

Liver function tests

The liver is an organ that does many important

jobs, such as remove toxins from your blood. Liver

function tests measure chemicals that are made or

processed by the liver. Levels that are too high or

low may be a sign of liver damage or cancer spread.

Liver function tests are often done along with a blood

chemistry profile.

CA-125 and other tumor markers

A tumor marker is a substance found in body tissue

or fluid that may be a sign of cancer. CA-125 is

a tumor marker for ovarian cancer. It is a protein

with sugar molecules attached to it that is made by

normal cells and ovarian cancer cells. High levels of

CA-125 in the blood may be a sign of ovarian cancer

or another health condition.

A CA-125 test measures the amount of CA-125 in the

blood. This test is not used alone to diagnose ovarian

cancer. But, it may be done along with other initial

tests if your doctor suspects ovarian cancer. It may

also be done during and after treatment to check

treatment results.