About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer affects approximately 7000 women each year in the UK and appears most often in women over 45 and after the menopause. For most women there is no particular reason why the cancer occurs but a small number of ovarian cancers are caused by a faulty gene which runs in the family. If your cancer is found at an early stage, treatment may be
more successful with better results.

Ovarian cancer can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms can be similar to more common and less serious conditions. It is sometimes mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome although IBS rarely occurs for the first time in women aged over 50.

Symptoms to look out for

  • persistent bloating of the abdomen
  • difficulty eating and feeling full quickly
  • persistent abdominal and pelvic pain
  • needing to urinate more frequently
  • changes in your bowel movements and frequency
  • extreme tiredness or fatigue
  • backache
  • vaginal bleeding


There are two components to consider in ovarian cancer screening:

  • A Blood Test – to measure CA125 levels in the blood (although it is important to know that athough these levels are often raised in early ovarian and some other cancers, they can also be raised in some other benign conditions)
  • An Ultrasound Scan – screening accuracy can be improved by performing a trans-vaginal ultrasound scan to look at the ovaries and then combining this information with the CA125 levels

Routine Ovarian Cancer Screening

Our recommended general service is a combined blood test and ultrasound scan.

You should think about screening if any or all of the following apply:

  • you’re a postmenopausal women over 50 years of age
  • you’re between 35 and 85 years and considered high risk due to family history of ovarian or breast cancer
  • you’re of Ashkenazi Jewish descent with a known family history of ovarian or breast cancer

Ovarian Cancer Screening for BRCA1 or BRCA2 Carriers

If you have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene and wish to delay risk reducing surgery, you should consider the ROCA Test.Learn more from Cancer Research UK.

The ROCA Test is a blood test that determines the risk of a woman having ovarian cancer. The test is intended for women with a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene that confers a high risk of developing ovarian cancer. Women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation are generally recommended to consider surgical removal of their ovaries and fallopian tubes. However, this results in early menopause and affects fertility. Hence many women choose to delay this procedure.

The ROCA Test has been evaluated in long term studies involving more than 8,500 women. The results from these studies show that routine surveillance with the ROCA Test can detect ovarian cancer in 8 out of 10 women when they have no obvious symptoms and with a greater proportion being at an earlier stage than women not undergoing surveillance. This means that if you do develop ovarian cancer, it is more likely that you will have less complicated surgery to remove the tumour and all the visible cancer can be removed.


Understand the risks, limitations and contraindications of the ROCA Test.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about the ROCA Test?  Get more answers here.