Ovarian cancer varies in seriousness from slow growing to aggressively invasive. They may be solid, fluid-filled or a combination of both. Ovarian tumors may be primarily cystic, solid, or mixed. This cancer is difficult to detect because it remains symptomless until fairly late in the disease process. Symptoms associated with ovarian cancer are very non-specific and by the time a patient develops these symptoms, the ovarian cancer has frequently spread to distant sites. There are ways to test for the presence of ovarian cancer. This includes blood tests and ultrasound. Let us see what does ovarian cancer look like on an ultrasound. The ultrasound examination you are advised may be an abdominal ultrasound or a transvaginal ultrasound. Both types of ultrasound tests may be used to help diagnose ovarian cancer. It can help to show whether the ovaries are normal in size. The ultrasound also tells us if the ovaries have a normal surface texture and whether there are cysts within the ovaries. The ultrasound can help to show whether a cyst has any solid areas as it is more likely to be cancer.
What does ovarian cancer look like on an ultrasound is not an easy question to answer. There are different ultrasound scoring systems which can predict whether there is a malignancy or not. Some characteristics may point to increased chance of malignancy. These include cysts which have multiple septations within them, a thick-walled cyst, a solid mass, mixed cystic and solid masses, large amount of free fluid in the pelvis or abdomen and masses which are gradually enlarging. Transvaginal ultrasound scanning has been used, with some success, to identify ovarian cancer. By the time the changes of ovarian cancer are detectable by ultrasound, most ovarian cancers are well beyond the early stage of the disease. In cases of ovarian cancer, ultrasound usually reveals complex cysts on one or both ovaries, multiple solid masses, nodule on the bowel or excess pelvic and/or abdominal fluid.
Ovarian cancer cannot be diagnosed with certainty by ultrasound. What does ovarian cancer look like on an ultrasound can at best identify characteristics that make it more likely to be malignant or benign. There are many benign pelvic conditions that can appear on ultrasound and are mistaken for cancer. These include benign ovarian cysts, hemorrhagic ovarian cysts, endometriosis, dermoid cysts, ovarian fibroids, uterine fibroids,swollen, fluid-filled faloppian tubes, pelvic abscesses and adhesions. If you have a large cyst and are in your menopausal years or you have a cyst that shows signs that it may contain cancer cells, your doctor will recommend that surgery to have it removed and looked at in the pathology lab. If the specialist cannot be sure whether an abnormality on ultrasound is cancer or not they may ask you to have a CT scan or an MRI scan to observe the ovaries more clearly. Sometimes though, it is not possible to diagnose ovarian cancer for certain without an operation. In such cases surgical exploration of the pelvis and a subsequent pathological examination of the specimen will help ascertain the presence of cancer.