Ovarian cancer symptoms


In most cases, ovarian cancer symptoms are not apparent in the early stages of the disease. As a result, ovarian cancer tends to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage.

Because there is no routine screening test for ovarian cancer, women with a family history of the disease or other risk factors should talk with their doctor about genetic testing and other steps they can take to monitor or reduce their risk. Routine gynecologic care and annual pelvic exams are currently the best way to screen for symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer symptoms

The signs of ovarian cancer may be different for each woman and any one of these symptoms may be caused by noncancerous conditions. Because the ovaries are located near the bladder and the intestines, gastrointestinal symptoms often occur. When present, common symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:

  • Persistent abdominal bloating, indigestion or nausea
  • Changes in appetite, often a loss of appetite or feeling full sooner
  • Feelings of pressure in the pelvis or lower back
  • Needing to urinate more frequently
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Increased abdominal girth
  • Feeling tired or low energy

Awareness of how your body normally feels and paying attention to symptoms that persist for several weeks can help guide your decision to see a doctor. Many signs of ovarian cancer, such as abdominal bloating, may suggest a gastrointestinal issue. Talk with your doctor about ovarian cancer being part of the problem.

Ovarian cysts

An ovarian cyst, also known as a pelvic mass, is a fluid-filled sac that may develop on one or both ovaries due to ovarian cancer. Ovarian cysts, though, are common during a woman’s childbearing years and may simply occur with her menstrual cycle. These cysts, called functional cysts, are typically not cancerous. Post-menopausal women with ovarian cysts have a higher risk of cancer.

Symptoms of ovarian cysts may include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain shortly before or after beginning  your period
  • Pressure, swelling or pain in the abdomen
  • A dull ache in the lower back and thighs
  • Difficulty emptying your bladder
  • Pain during sex
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Nausea or vomiting

Symptoms of benign ovarian cysts listed above are similar to the symptoms of ovarian cancer. It’s important to see your doctor for an evaluation if you think you have an ovarian cyst. During the exam, your doctor may be able to feel the cyst manually. Your doctor then may order an ultrasound to determine the cysts’ size, shape, location and composition before deciding next steps, either watchful waiting or surgery.

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