Early detection of ovarian cancer could greatly increase the likelihood of successful treatment. However, present detection techniques are not very effective, and symptoms are more commonly seen in later stage disease. Amino acids, structural proteins, and enzymatic cofactors have endogenous optical properties influenced by precancerous changes and tumor growth. We present the technical details of an optical spectroscopy system used to quantify these properties. A fiber optic probe excites the surface epithelium (origin of 90% of cases) over 270 to 580 nm and collects fluorescence and reflectance at 300 to 800 nm with four or greater orders of magnitude instrument to background suppression. Up to four sites per ovary are investigated on patients giving consent to oophorectomy and the system's in vivo optical evaluation. Data acquisition is completed within 20 s per site. We illustrate design, selection, and development of the components used in the system. Concerns relating to clinical use, performance, calibration, and quality control are addressed. In the future, spectroscopic data will be compared with histological biopsies from the corresponding tissue sites. If proven effective, this technique can be useful in screening women at high risk of developing ovarian cancer to determine whether oophorectomy is necessary.