Menu

What to Know About Bloating and Ovarian Cancer

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 11, 2020

There are lots of reasons you may feel bloated, including minor problems like eating gassy foods. But bloating can also be a symptom of ovarian cancer in some women.

Causes of Bloating

Bloating is a feeling of fullness or tightness around your belly. You might feel like you need to pass gas. In some cases, your belly might appear swollen (distension).

You could have bloating because of:

In some cases, bloating could be a symptom of ovarian cancer. The reason you may bloat with this type of cancer is because of a buildup of fluid inside the abdomen (belly), called ascites. This can happen because of things such as:

Cancer spreads to the peritoneum. If cancer reaches your peritoneum, the membrane that lines the inside of the abdomen and the organs within, it may irritate it. This causes the peritoneum to make more fluid than normal.

Cancer spreads to the liver. Ovarian cancer can affect your liver or the vein that moves blood to your liver. If this happens, the blood pressure in the portal vein that travels through your liver can go up. Higher pressure in this vein could cause fluid to collect inside the abdomen.

Blockage of the lymphatic system. If ovarian cancer blocks your lymphatic system, the part of your immune system that moves lymph fluid back into your bloodstream, the fluid will not drain correctly and may collect inside the abdomen.

This fluid might make your belly swollen and extend outward. It's common to also have pain, tightness, indigestion, and gas with the bloating.

It may be hard to eat since bloating can put pressure on your stomach. You could also feel shortness of breath if fluid from ascites puts pressure on your lungs.

Other Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Be on the lookout for other signs of ovarian cancer besides bloating, such as:

These symptoms may not mean you have cancer. Most of the time, they happen because of another condition. But if you notice them more often, make an appointment with your doctor.

Also, see your doctor if you have bloating for 3 weeks or longer.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Rush University Medical Center: "5 Early Signs of Ovarian Cancer."

Ovarian Cancer Action: "Bloating and ovarian cancer."

Moffitt Cancer Center: "Why Does Ovarian Cancer Cause Bloating?"

Cleveland Clinic: "Lymphatic System."

American Cancer Society: "Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer."

The Eve Appeal: "Bloating and Ovarian Cancer -- Your Questions Answered."

Colorado State University: "Peritoneum, Mesentery, and Omentum."

Penn Medicine: "Why Do I Feel Bloated? Common Causes of Bloating -- And What You Can Do About It."

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.