Using high frequency sound waves that bounce off the organs to produce images, the pelvic ultrasound is a safe and non-invasive way to assess the size, shape and configuration of the ovaries.
- If a mass or tumor is found, further testing will be done to determine if it is cancerous.
- The ultrasound can also show if there is a buildup of fluid in the abdomen, although further testing will be needed to confirm cancer.
- Sometimes, in order to get a better view of the ovaries, the device will be inserted into the vagina. This procedure is called a transvaginal ultrasound.
A special ultrasound test called a transvaginal color flow Doppler measures the blood flow to the ovaries. A cancerous tumor will develop an unorganized network of new blood vessels, which don't offer resistance to blood flow. If the Doppler detects little resistance to blood flow, then there may be a cancerous tumor.
What to expect
Preparation for ultrasound is minimal. You may be requested to avoid eating and drinking with the exception of water for six to eight hours prior to the examination.
Usually, a radiologist will oversee the ultrasound test and report on the results, but other types of physicians may use ultrasound as a diagnostic tool. A technician may perform the actual exam.
A transducer, or probe, is used to project and receive the sound waves and the return signals.
- A gel is wiped onto your skin so that the sound waves are not distorted as they cross through the skin.
- The transducer is pressed against your skin over the pelvic area. During a transvaginal exam, the probe is inserted in the vagina providing a better quality sonogram of your ovaries.
- The transducer sends out high-pitched sound waves (above the range of human hearing) that are reflected back to the transducer. A computer analyzes the reflected sound waves and converts them into a picture that is displayed on a TV screen
- The technician may need to vary the amount of pressure used to push the probe against the skin.
- The probe will be repositioned and pointed in different directions. The goal will be to "paint" a shadow picture of the ovaries and pelvic organs.
- The picture produced by ultrasound is called a sonogram, echogram, or ultrasound scan. Pictures or videos of the ultrasound images may be made for your permanent record.