NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Ovarian Cancer, Version 1.2017
Testing for ovarian cancer
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
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
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