What is the role of imaging in the workup of ovarian cancer?

Updated: Aug 10, 2020
  • Author: Andrew E Green, MD; Chief Editor: Yukio Sonoda, MD  more...
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Imaging studies used in ovarian cancer include ultrasonography, chest radiography, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning does not have an established role in the diagnosis of primary ovarian malignancy.

Ultrasonography is the most useful initial investigation in a patient found to have a pelvic mass. This may define the morphology of the pelvic tumor. In addition, it can determine whether large masses are present in other parts of the abdomen, including in the liver.

Chest radiography or CT is performed routinely, as it is useful in helping exclude pleural effusions or pulmonary spread of malignant diseases of the ovary.

The primary advantage of using MRI in the evaluation of ovarian masses is the ability to employ this modality in the characterization of tissue. The presence of fat, hemorrhage, mucin, fluid, and solid tissue within an ovarian mass can be determined with the aid of MRI. The ability to characterize tissue in this way is most useful in determining whether a mass is definitely benign.

In many cases, CT is complementary to surgical staging. CT can identify possible sites of unsuspected disease such as the pelvic peritoneum, paraaortic nodes, diaphragm, and chest. [57]

For more information, see Malignant Ovarian Tumor Imaging.

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