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Ultrasound scans

If your CA125 levels are elevated, your GP will refer to the radiology department of your local hospital for an ultrasound scan.

What is an ultrasound scan?

Ultrasound scans usually take place in the radiology department of your local hospital and are used to produce a picture of your tissues and organs inside your body to help identify any unusual lumps or masses. A sonographer or radiologist will use a handheld device or probe to create a picture to using sound waves.

If you have been referred for an ultrasound scan, you will receive an appointment letter which will contain any information regarding any preparations (you may be requested to have a full bladder). The estimated length of time of the scan typically takes between 15 and 45 minutes.

There are two types of ultrasound scan: abdominal and pelvic/transvaginal. 

Abdominal ultrasound scan

An abdominal ultrasound scan is used to create a picture of your ovaries, womb and other internal organs in your tummy and pelvis (abdominal area). Clear gel will be applied to your tummy and the sonographer or radiologist will move the handheld device over your tummy. This should not cause you any discomfort, however you may be asked to have a full bladder for this scan. 

Pelvic/transvaginal ultrasound scan

A transvaginal ultrasound involves a small probe being inserted into your vagina which allows for a closer look at things such as the ovaries, womb, and fallopian tubes. The handheld probe will be covered in a protective sheath with lubricating gel before it is inserted into your vagina. You may feel some discomfort however it should not be painful.

Ultrasound scan results

Ultrasound scans are used to look for anything usual, however they cannot diagnose ovarian cancer by itself. Your scan results will be sent to your GP – if there is any indication of ovarian cancer your GP will refer you to a gynaecological oncologist. The gynaecological oncologist will arrange for you to have some either keyhole or open surgery to establish if you have ovarian cancer. 

What if my ultrasound scan results are normal?

If your ultrasound scans come back normal it is unlikely that you have ovarian cancer. If you've had a normal test result but your symptoms don't improve, go back to your GP as you may need to be re-tested. Things other than ovarian cancer that could present with symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain, difficulty eating and weeing more frequently include:

  • Gallstones
  • Gastro infections
  • Indigestion
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Pulled muscles
  • Pregnancy
  • The onset of the menopause
  • Urinary tract infections.

Your GP should continue to investigate to see if your symptoms are linked to any of the above, or something else.

Reviewed: September 2022

Next review: September 2023