UK doctors say they have found an easier way to diagnose ovarian cancer.
The new technique is less invasive
By passing a needle up through the vagina, the Manchester University researchers were able to take a sample of ovarian tissue for testing.
They said it is better than passing a needle through the abdomen, and less invasive than cutting a woman open to find the tumour.
The method was well tolerated by the 14 women in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology study.
Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed late because the symptoms can be vague and go unnoticed.
It may not be until the tumour has reached a relatively large size that the woman will spot that there is something wrong.
However, before chemotherapy can be started, it is necessary to make sure that the diagnosis is correct.
Conventionally, this has involved cutting open the abdomen or passing a needle through the abdomen, guided by ultrasound or computer tomography (CT) scanning, to get to the ovary.
Both methods have disadvantages - surgery is invasive and there is a risk that other organs will be punctured if a needle is passed through the abdomen. Both require anaesthesia
Dr Rebecca Faulkner and colleagues believe a better way is to pass a needle through the vagina.
They tested the method in 14 women and achieved a successful biopsy in 12 of them.
None of the women had any bleeding complications or other serious side effects.
Some experienced slight discomfort, but this settled as soon as the procedure was completed. Four required mild pain relief.
Ovarian cancer symptoms
Need to urinate more often
Change in bowel habits
Pain in abdomen or back
Dr Faulkner said: "In many cases of ovarian cancer, chemotherapy is now being given prior to surgery.
"This technique offers a convenient means of confirming the diagnosis without requiring full surgery, though patients for this procedure need to be carefully selected."
She said it was best used when the tumour was relatively large and could be felt through the vaginal walls on examination.
It would not be suitable, however, for very early cancers because there is a risk that the cancer can be spread locally as the needle is withdrawn from the tumour.
Mr Peter Bowen-Simpkins from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: "This is a major step forward in the treatment of a common gynaecological cancer, avoiding the need for major diagnostic surgery at a most distressing time.
"This applies to women with more advanced disease, which account for about 70-80% of cases.
"We can avoid a really big operation and get on with treatment."
Dr Elaine Vickers of Cancer Research UK said: "We welcome the results of this small study. Anything that could improve the diagnosis or treatment of ovarian cancer is a step forwards."