Ovarian Cancer and Pain

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on September 06, 2022

Pain -- sharp or dull, in your belly, pelvis, or elsewhere -- can be one of the earliest warning signs of ovarian cancer. Your disease and the treatments for it also may cause pain.

Sources of Ovarian Cancer Pain

You might hurt from the symptoms of ovarian cancer or because of other reasons:

Tumor. Your cancer can leave your belly or pelvis swollen and sore. As the tumor grows and spreads, you might feel pain near your lungs, liver, and other parts of your body.

Digestive symptoms. You might mistake ovarian cancer for indigestion. It may seem like painful acid reflux. You may feel bloated and burp more often. Your stomach may hurt.

Bowel changes. If your cancer spreads to your abdomen, it can lead to diarrhea or constipation. That may be painful or uncomfortable.

Chemotherapy. This uses powerful chemicals to target cancer cells in your body. Side effects of chemotherapy include nausea/vomiting, fatigue headaches, stomach pain, and muscle pain. It also can cause nerve damage that may leave your fingers and toes numb or with shooting or burning pain. The problems usually go away when you finish treatment. But the nerve damage may linger for a long time or may be permanent.

Radiation. This uses X-rays, gamma rays, and other radioactive energy to kill cancer cells. The beams may irritate nearby skin. But it should go away after you stop therapy. In some cases, your skin may stay a bit tender and sensitive after treatment.

How to Manage Your Pain

A mix of medications and alternative therapies may offer some relief.

Mild pain. Your doctor may suggest over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These may help ease pain and inflammation during your treatments. Ask them how often you should take the drug, and follow the directions for use.

Severe pain. Prescription medications can help with more intense pain. They may include:

  • Opioids. These are very strong painkillers that are commonly given for cancer-related pain. If you use them for a long time, you can become dependent on these drugs. So follow your doctor’s instructions for use. Ask if a non-opioid alternative may be right for you.
  • Muscle relaxers. These pain medications help treat muscle spasms or tightness.
  • Neuropathic pain medications. These may ease symptoms of nerve-related pain.
  • Nerve block. Your doctor may recommend this if other drugs haven’t helped. It’s a needle injection that helps turn off the pain signal to nerves in specific areas of your body.

Complementary therapies. These methods may help ease your stress, pain, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects of ovarian cancer.

Ask your doctor if it might help to add these therapies to your medical treatment or if you can try them alone.

Show Sources


Cleveland Clinic: “Ovarian Cancer.”

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition: “Types & Stages of Ovarian Cancer,” “Complementary Therapies.”

American Society of Clinical Oncology: “Side Effects of Chemotherapy.”

Mayo Clinic: “Chemotherapy,’ “Radiation Therapy.”

American Cancer Society: “Radiation Therapy Side Effects,” “Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer.”

Winchester Hospital: “Medications for Ovarian Cancer.”

Cancer Research UK: “Nerve blocks.”

MD Anderson Cancer Center: “Ovarian cancer symptoms: 4 things to know.”

CDC: “Opioid Overdose.” “Nerve Blocks.”

© 2022 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info