What Are the Early Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

The Early Warning Signs You Need To Look Out For

Signs of Ovarian Cancer
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For decades, ovarian cancer has been touted as the "silent killer" because of the disease's assumed lack of early warning signs and symptoms. There are cases, however, when symptoms do appear. In 2007, the American Cancer Society, the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists issued a joint statement recognizing four early ovarian cancer symptoms in women.

Early Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

According to the 2007 joint consensus issued by the American Cancer Society and other gynecologic organizations, early ovarian cancer symptoms can include:

Bloating. Many women experience bloating during PMS, and most people also feel bloated when they eat too much. But women with ovarian cancer may experience bloating every day, with no relief. This bloating can be mild, or it can be more severe. Call your doctor if you have been bloated every day for two weeks and are not finding relief from over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

Pelvic Pain. As with bloating, you may have experienced pelvic pain during PMS or ovulation. But if this pain occurs even when you are not menstruating or ovulating, it can be an early sign of ovarian cancer. Pelvic pain can feel like dull menstrual cramps or, when they're more severe, they may even require you to lay down and take pain medication. 

Feeling Full Quickly While Eating. If you find yourself frequently feeling full before you have finished an average-sized meal, you should talk to your doctor. 

Frequent Urination and/or Strong Urgency To Urinate. If you feel you are urinating more often and have not increased your fluid intake, then a trip to the doctor may be necessary.

If you have the urge to urinate and do not actually go, it should also be evaluated by a doctor, who will likely order a urinalysis to check for abnormalities.

The problem with these symptoms is that they may seem vague, and they don't often raise red flags for the disease. They mimic the signs and symptoms of much less serious diseases, so there may be multiple misdiagnoses before ovarian cancer is diagnosed.

If you experience any of these symptoms daily for at least two weeks, see your doctor. In all likelihood, your symptoms are probably caused by something other than ovarian cancer, but it's always good to be extra vigilant when it comes to your health.

Important Points to Remember About Early Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

While there may be early symptoms in some women, not all women with ovarian cancer will have symptoms at the time of diagnosis. And while being diagnosed early is key with any condition, sadly, the majority of women with ovarian cancer are not diagnosed at an early stage.

As previously noted, if you do experience symptoms, they may seem so minor you're tempted not to give them a second thought. But if you notice that these symptoms are persistent and severe than usual, it's worth taking to your doctor, just to be safe.

Ovarian cancer is not common, so your doctor will likely look for more probable causes first. If you continue to experience symptoms despite undergoing treatment for other conditions, be persistent.

You have nothing to apologize for when it comes to your overall health and well-being.


American Cancer Society. Ovarian Cancer Has Early Symptoms. June 2007.

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