Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Early Signs of Ovarian Cancer

In its early stages, ovarian cancer may not cause symptoms you would notice. Even as the disease advances, the signs can be unclear. You might confuse them with other common problems, such as constipation.

For many years, ovarian cancer was known as a “silent” disease. If you know the symptoms, you and your doctor will have a better chance of finding it early.

Common Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

There are four main symptoms of ovarian cancer. You might have them even in early stages of the disease. They are:

  • Bloating
  • Pain in your pelvis or belly
  • Trouble eating or quickly feeling that you’re full
  • Always feeling like you need to pee (urgency) or feeling like you need to pee often (frequency)

Many things other than ovarian cancer can cause these symptoms. Think about whether they’re unusual for you and whether they’re happening more often or seem to be getting worse.

Other Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Other symptoms that could mean you have ovarian cancer include:

Keep in mind that even though these things can be signs of ovarian cancer, it’s more likely that something else is causing them.

When to Call the Doctor

Because the signs of ovarian cancer are common and somewhat vague, it’s hard to know when to call the doctor. Get checked out if your symptoms:

  • Are new to you
  • Happen more than 12 times in a month
  • Don’t go away with changes such as exercise, diet, laxatives, or more rest

Tell your doctor if ovarian cancer or breast cancer runs in your family.

Persistence of Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms that last more than a couple of weeks are key to spotting ovarian cancer. Only about 15% of ovarian cancer is diagnosed in the early stages. Many women don’t notice problems until a tumor is more advanced.

Continued

Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts, Masses, or Tumors

A number of conditions can cause a mass or swelling in your pelvic area. They may be malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous). You might not know that you have one until your doctor spots it during a routine checkup.

An ovarian cyst is one of the most common causes of pelvic masses. Others include fibroids and endometriosis.

A pelvic mass can cause symptoms similar to those of ovarian cancer, such as:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Swelling or a bloated feeling in your belly
  • Needing to pee often
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Aching in your lower back and thighs
  • Trouble empting your bladder or bowels
  • Pain during sex
  • Weight gain with no clear cause
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Breast tenderness
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 24, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition: “What are the Signs & Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?”

Mayo Clinic: “Diseases and Conditions -- Ovarian cancer.”

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance: “Symptoms and Detection.”

American Cancer Society: “Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer.”

CDC: “What Are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?”

Hoag Women’s Health Institute: “Pelvic Mass.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health: “Ovarian cysts.”

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