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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Ovarian Cancer, Version 1.2017


Testing for ovarian cancer

Tissue tests | Review

Tissue tests


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

Surgical staging


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

of fluid.

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

cancer cells.

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

and uterus.



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.