Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 05/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Ovarian cancer was once thought to cause no symptoms. However, recent studies have shown that women with ovarian cancer are more likely to have the following symptoms or signs, even if the cancer is in an early stage. Sometimes, women with ovarian cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

For many women with ovarian cancer, these symptoms occur often and are different from what is normal for their bodies. Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see either a primary care physician or a gynecologist (a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the female reproductive organs). Early medical evaluation may help detect the cancer at the earliest possible stage of the disease when it is easier to treat.

Women with ovarian cancer may also have the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Indigestion
  • Back pain
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual irregularities

However, these symptoms are equally as likely to be caused by another medical condition. If you are concerned about any of these symptoms or signs, please talk with your doctor.

Your doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. This will include how long you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s) and how often.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms and side effects remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section helps explain what tests and scans may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Diagnosis, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.