Guideline No. 403: Initial Investigation and Management of Adnexal Masses

J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2020 Aug;42(8):1021-1029.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.jogc.2019.08.044.


Objectives: To aid primary care physicians, emergency medicine physicians, and gynaecologists in the initial investigation of adnexal masses, defined as lumps that appear near the uterus or in or around ovaries, fallopian tubes, or surrounding connective tissue, and to outline recommendations for identifying women who would benefit from a referral to a gynaecologic oncologist for further management.

Intended users: Gynaecologists, obstetricians, family physicians, general surgeons, emergency medicine specialists, radiologists, sonographers, nurses, medical learners, residents, and fellows.

Target population: Adult women 18 years of age and older presenting for the evaluation of an adnexal mass.

Options: Women with adnexal masses should be assessed for personal risk factors, history, and physical findings. Initial evaluation should also include imaging and laboratory testing to triage women for management of their care either by a gynaecologic oncologist or as per SOGC guideline no. 404 on the initial investigation and management of benign ovarian masses.

Evidence: A search of PubMed, Cochrane Wiley, and the Cochrane systematic reviews was conducted in January 2018 for English-language materials involving human subjects published since 2000 using three sets of terms: (i) ovarian cancer, ovarian carcinoma, adnexal disease, ovarian neoplasm, adnexal mass, fallopian tube disease, fallopian tube neoplasm, ovarian cyst, and ovarian tumour; (ii) the above terms in combination with predict neoplasm staging, follow-up, and staging; and (iii) the above two sets of terms in combination with ultrasound, tumour marker, CA 125, CEA, CA19-9, HE4, multivariable-index-assay, risk-of-ovarian-malignancy-algorithm, risk-of-malignancy-index, diagnostic imaging, CT, MRI, and PET. Relevant evidence was selected for inclusion in descending order of quality of evidence as follows: meta-analyses, systematic reviews, guidelines, randomized controlled trials, prospective cohort studies, observational studies, non-systematic reviews, case series, and reports. Additional articles were identified through cross-referencing the identified reviews. The total number of studies identified was 2350, with 59 being included in this review.

Validation methods: The content and recommendations were drafted and agreed upon by the authors. The Executive and Board of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology of Canada reviewed the content and submitted comments for consideration. The Board of Directors of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada approved the final draft for publication. The quality of evidence was rated using the criteria described in the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) methodology framework (Table A1 of Online Appendix A). See Table A2 of Online Appendix A for the interpretation of strong and weak recommendations. The summary of findings is available upon request.

Benefits, harms, costs: Adnexal masses are common, and guidelines on how to triage them and manage the care of patients presenting with adnexal masses will continue to guide the practice of primary care providers and gynaecologists. Ovarian cancer outcomes are improved when initial surgery is performed by a gynaecologic oncologist, likely as a result of complete surgical staging and optimal cytoreduction. Given these superior outcomes, guidelines to assist in the triage of adnexal masses and the referral and management of the care of patients with an adnexal mass are critical.

Summary statements (grade ratings in parentheses): RECOMMENDATIONS (GRADE RATINGS IN PARENTHESES).

Keywords: CA-125 antigen; CA-19-9 antigen; adnexa uteri; clinical decision-making; cytoreduction surgical procedures; fallopian tube neoplasms; ovarian neoplasms; triage; ultrasonography.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adnexal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Adnexal Diseases / therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Fallopian Tube Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Fallopian Tube Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Female
  • Gynecology / standards*
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Ovary / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography