NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Ovarian Cancer, Version 1.2017
Testing for ovarian cancer
Tissue tests | Review
To confirm if you have ovarian cancer, a sample of
tissue must be removed from your body for testing.
This is called a biopsy. Doctors test tumor tissue to
check for cancer cells and to look at the features
of the cancer cells. Most often, the biopsy is done
during treatment with surgery to remove ovarian
cancer. (For surgery details, see
Part 3 and
in Part 4.)
However, a biopsy may be done before treatment
in certain, rare cases. This may be done if the
cancer has spread too much to be removed by
initial surgery. In such cases, an FNA (
spiration) biopsy or paracentesis may be used.
An FNA biopsy uses a very thin needle to remove
a small sample of tissue from the tumor. For
paracentesis, a long, thin needle is inserted through
the skin of the belly (abdomen) to remove a sample
The biopsy samples will be sent to a pathologist for
testing. A pathologist is a doctor who’s an expert in
testing cells to find disease. The pathologist will view
the samples with a microscope to look for cancer
cells. He or she will also assess the features of the
Review of tumor tissue
Sometimes ovarian cancer is confirmed by a prior
surgery or biopsy performed by another doctor. In
this case, your cancer doctors will need to review
all of the prior results. This includes results of
the surgery, biopsy, and tests of tissue that was
removed. A pathologist will examine the tumor tissue
with a microscope to make sure it is ovarian cancer.
Your doctors will also want to know if the surgery
left any cancer in your body. All of this will help your
current doctors plan treatment done during and after
treatment to check treatment results.
Cancer tests are used to plan treatment.
Your medical and family history help inform
your doctor about your health.
Genetic counseling may help you decide
whether to be tested for hereditary ovarian
A pelvic exam checks the health of your ovaries
Imaging tests can show if there is a tumor in
your ovaries and if the cancer has spread.
Blood tests check for signs of disease.
A biopsy is the removal of samples of tissue to
test for cancer cells.
What to do...
Keep a list of contact information
of all of your health care providers.
Keep a list of all of your current
medications and supplements.
Use a calendar or day planner to
keep track of your appointments.