Ovarian, Fallopian Tube, and Peritoneal Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 10/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the changes and medical problems that can be a sign of ovarian/fallopian tube cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.

What are the symptoms and signs of ovarian/fallopian tube cancer?

Ovarian/fallopian tube cancer can be hard to find in its earliest stages. That’s because the symptoms are often vague until these diseases are advanced. However, early-stage ovarian/fallopian tube cancer versus advanced-stage ovarian/fallopian tube cancer is not just a factor of delayed diagnosis but also of biology. Most ovarian/fallopian tube cancers (see Stages and Grades) diagnosed at stage I are clear cell, endometrioid, and mucinous with only a small percent being high-grade serous cancers (HGSC). Most advanced-stage ovarian cancers, however, are HGSC.

People with ovarian/fallopian tube cancer may experience certain symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem.

It is rare for people with advanced-stage ovarian/fallopian tube cancer to not have any symptoms or signs. However, it’s also important to note that these symptoms are not specific to ovarian/fallopian tube cancer and may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer. Symptoms and signs for ovarian/fallopian tube cancer may include:

  • Abdominal bloating

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain

  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

  • Urinary symptoms, such as urgency or frequency

  • Fatigue

  • Upset stomach

  • Indigestion

  • Back pain

  • Pain during sexual intercourse

  • Constipation

  • Menstrual irregularities

  • Swelling in the pelvis or abdomen

  • Vaginal discharge, which may be clear, white, or tinged with blood

For many people, any of these symptoms can be caused by reasons not related to ovarian cancer, and they may occur often. However, it is important for a person to acknowledge these symptoms if they begin and are different from what is normal for their bodies. People who have any of the symptoms listed above every day for more than a few weeks should see their primary care doctor or a gynecologist. A gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the female reproductive organs. Early medical evaluation may help find cancer at the earliest possible stage of the disease, when it is easier to treat successfully.

Your doctor will try to understand what is causing your symptom(s). They may do an exam and order tests to understand the cause of the problem, which is called a diagnosis.

If the doctor diagnoses cancer, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called "palliative and supportive care," which is not the same as hospice care given at the end of life. You can receive palliative and supportive care at any time during cancer treatment. This type of care focuses on managing symptoms and supporting people who face serious illnesses, such as cancer. Learn more in this guide’s section on Coping with Treatment.

Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.