What are the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer

A fellow caregiver asked...

What are the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Expert Answer

Senior Editor Melanie Haiken, who is responsible for Caring.com's coverage of cancer, general health, and family finance, discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions.

The problem with ovarian cancer is that many of the symptoms are easily confused with digestive disorders and bladder problems, so the cancer goes unrecognized until it's advanced. But in retrospect, many women with ovarian cancer realize they were experiencing unexplained symptoms for months, even years, before their cancer was diagnosed. Recently, researchers found that ovarian cancer could be detected using a blood test in combination with a simple screening. Women should check with their doctors if they notice one or more of these symptoms:

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Increased abdomen size or bloating
  • Feeling constantly full or having difficulty eating

Of course, these symptoms are common to many conditions. But if the symptom is new, and persists over time, talk to your doctor.

Other signs reported by ovarian cancer patients:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • An urgent need to urinate
  • Urinary burning or discharge
  • Indigestion or nausea that persists over a long period of time
  • Frequent episodes of gas
  • Unexplained constipation
  • Unexplained increase in waist size "“ i.e. you can't zip up your jeans
  • Pain during sex
  • Lower back pain
  • Menstrual changes such as more pain during periods or heavier bleeding
  • Lack of energy

Those with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer should be even more vigilant; talk to your doctor about genetic screening and be alert to any new symptoms in the pelvic area.