Management of a Suspicious Adnexal Mass: A Clinical Practice Guideline Academic Article uri icon

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  • Questions: What is the optimal strategy for preoperative identification of the adnexal mass suspicious for ovarian cancer? What is the most appropriate surgical procedure for a woman who presents with an adnexal mass suspicious for malignancy? Perspectives: In Canada in 2010, 2600 new cases of ovarian cancer were estimated to have been diagnosed, and of those patients, 1750 were estimated to have died, making ovarian cancer the 7th most prevalent form of cancer and the 5th leading cause of cancer death in Canadian women. Women with ovarian cancer typically have subtle, nonspecific symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, changes in bowel frequency, and urinary or pelvic symptoms, making early detection difficult. Thus, most ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when the cancer has spread outside the pelvis. Because of late diagnosis, the 5-year relative survival ratio for ovarian cancer in Canada is only 40%. Unfortunately, because of the low positive predictive value of potential screening tests (cancer antigen 125 and ultrasonography), there is currently no screening strategy for ovarian cancer. The purpose of this document is to identify evidence that would inform optimal recommended protocols for the identification and surgical management of adnexal masses suspicious for malignancy. Outcomes: Outcomes of interest for the identification question included sensitivity and specificity. Outcomes of interest for the surgical question included optimal surgery, overall survival, progression-free or disease-free survival, reduction in the number of surgeries, morbidity, adverse events, and quality of life. Methodology: After a systematic review, a practice guideline containing clinical recommendations relevant to patients in Ontario was drafted. The practice guideline was reviewed and approved by the Gynecology Disease Site Group and the Report Approval Panel of the Program in Evidence-based Care. External review by Ontario practitioners was obtained through a survey, the results of which were incorporated into the practice guideline. Practice Guideline: These recommendations apply to adult women presenting with a suspicious adnexal mass, either symptomatic or asymptomatic. Identification of an Adnexal Mass Suspicious for Ovarian Cancer: Sonography (particularly 3-dimensional sonography), magnetic resonance imaging (mri), and computed tomography (ct) imaging are each recommended for differentiating malignant from benign ovarian masses. However, the working group offers the following further recommendations, based on their expert consensus opinion and a consideration of availability, access, and harm: (1) Where technically feasible, transvaginal sonography should be the modality of first choice in patients with a suspicious isolated ovarian mass. (2) To help clarify malignant potential in patients in whom ultrasonography may be unreliable, mri is the most appropriate test. (3) In cases in which extra-ovarian disease is suspected or needs to be ruled out, ct is the most useful technique. (4) Evaluation of an adnexal mass by Doppler technology alone is not recommended. Doppler technology should be combined with a morphology assessment. (5) Ultrasonography-based morphology scoring systems can be used to differentiate benign from malignant adnexal masses. These scoring systems are based on specific ultrasound parameters, each with several scores base on determined features. All evaluated scoring systems were found to have an acceptable level of sensitivity and specificity; the choice of scoring system may therefore be made based on clinician preference. (6) As a standalone modality, serum cancer antigen 125 is not recommended for distinguishing between benign and malignant adnexal masses. (7) Frozen sections for the intraoperative diagnosis of a suspicious adnexal mass is recommended in settings in which availability and patient preference allow. Surgical Procedures for an Adnexal Mass Suspicious for Malignancy: To improve survival, comprehensive surgical staging with lymphadenectomy is recommended for the surgical management of patients with early-stage ovarian cancer. Laparoscopy is a reasonable alternative to laparotomy, provided that appropriate surgery and staging can be done. The choice between laparoscopy and laparotomy should be based on patient and clinician preference. Discussion with a gynecologic oncologist is recommended. Fertility-preserving surgery is an acceptable alternative to more extensive surgery in patients with low-malignant-potential tumours and those with well-differentiated surgical stage i ovarian cancer. Discussion with a gynecologic oncologist is recommended.


  • Dodge, JE
  • Covens, AL
  • Lacchetti, C
  • Elit, Laurie
  • Le, T
  • Devries–Aboud, M
  • Fung-Kee-Fung, M

publication date

  • August 2012