Everyone who is born with ovaries is at risk for developing ovarian cancer. Affecting 1 in 75 Canadian women, the risk of ovarian cancer is increased among those with genetic mutations, which occur when a gene is altered and stops working as it should.


In the context of cancer, “prevention” refers to actions taken that may decrease the likelihood of developing cancer. Preventing ovarian cancer begins with being aware of factors that might increase your risk, and knowing how you can protect yourself.

Everyone who is born with ovaries has some risk of developing ovarian cancer. This disease impacts 1 in 75 Canadian women, and some are at greater risk than others depending on age, ethnicity, family history of certain cancers, reproductive history, and the presence of specific genetic mutations. Learn more about risk factors.


Risk reduction for this disease can be broadly categorized as surgical and non-surgical

For expert advice, talk to your doctor.


Signs and 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.

The most common first symptoms of ovarian cancer are: 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.

Signs of ovarian cancer may include: bloating, difficulty eating, abdominal discomfort or changes in urinary habits.

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 surgery or 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 biopsy or surgery, 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.

Learn more about the basics of ovarian cancer