Symptoms of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to detect. There is no effective screening test for this disease. You know best what’s normal for you and your body.

Some common symptoms of ovarian cancer may include: bloating, abdominal/pelvic pain or discomfort, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary changes. Less common symptoms may include: changes to bowel habits, nausea, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, bleeding after menopause, menstrual irregularities, back pain, indigestion, pain with intercourse, and bleeding after sex.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer

Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include

It is important to speak to your doctor if you notice any symptoms that are new to you and that persist for three weeks or longer.

It is very important to note that these symptoms do not mean that you have ovarian cancer. You are your own best advocate and it is important to seek medical care if you are experiencing any symptoms that are:

  • New – they are not normal for you and may have started in the last year
  • Persistent – they have been present for more than 3 weeks
  • Frequent – you notice the symptoms happen frequently

In many cases of ovarian cancer, no symptoms are experienced.


How to detect ovarian cancer

If ovarian cancer is suspected, you should be referred to a gynecologic oncologist for diagnosis through surgical biopsy. Your surgery must be performed by a gynecologic oncologist, as these doctors are specialized in ovarian cancer.

Research has shown that when surgery is performed by a gynecologic oncologist instead of another physician, the patient’s outcomes are improved.

If ovarian cancer is confirmed with surgical biopsy, your medical team will determine the subtype, grade, and stage of the cancer. This information will help you and your medical team in determining the best course of treatment for you.

Ask questions, you are your own best advocate

In all phases of your diagnosis and treatment, discuss the results with your doctor. Ask questions, write down the responses, and ask your doctor to clarify anything you don’t understand. If you can, bring someone with you to your appointments, such as a family member or close friend, to help listen and understand the information you are being provided. You can even ask your doctor if you can audio record the conversation (for example, using your mobile phone), so that you can listen again later if you forget anything.

Be sure to also discuss any relevant risk factors for ovarian cancer with your doctor.

Getting a second opinion

A diagnosis of ovarian cancer may be overwhelming. You should be comfortable with your treatment plan. You may want a second opinion to confirm your doctor's recommendations. It's your right to seek a second opinion.

Depending on where you are during your diagnosis and treatment, either your own family doctor or the gynecologic oncologist can refer you for a second opinion.