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Can a pregnancy test be used to diagnose ovarian cancer?

26 May 2016
Can a pregnancy test diagnose ovarian cancer

Our Health Projects Manager Ross Little responds to claims that pregnancy test kits can be used to diagnose ovarian cancer. 

Why are we talking about this?

It has recently been brought to Ovarian Cancer Action’s attention that some women who are concerned they might have ovarian cancer are using home pregnancy test kits in the belief that a positive result could diagnose them with the disease.

Is there any truth in this?

There have been some very rare occasions where ovarian cancer has caused a false positive to occur on a pregnancy test. During the early stages of pregnancy a woman’s body produces increased levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which will be detected by the more sensitive home tests and produce a positive result. 

An increased level of hCG may also sometimes be seen in a woman who has an early stage germ cell ovarian cancer, so there is a chance that if someone with this type of cancer does a pregnancy test, a positive result will be produced.

So, should I do a pregnancy test to see if I have ovarian cancer?

No. A home pregnancy test is in no way a valid or reliable route to diagnosing ovarian cancer. The incidences of a positive result being due to ovarian cancer, as opposed to an actual pregnancy, are minimal. The only way to accurately diagnose ovarian cancer is to have a CA125 blood test, followed by an ultrasound scan.

It is worth noting that unlike cervical, bowel and breast cancers, there is still no reliable, effective screening method for ovarian cancer. Ovarian Cancer Action is hoping to change this through funding research into the development of the world's first ovarian cancer screening tool. Find out more about our research.

What should I do if I am concerned about ovarian cancer?

If you think you have any of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, or are just concerned that something is not right, then you should make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible. To make this easier we have produced a symptoms diary that can be used to note down exactly what symptoms you are experiencing, and how persistent and severe they are.

Download our free symptoms diary app