Early Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

The warning signs are vague and subtle, so be vigilant

Signs of Ovarian Cancer
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For decades, ovarian cancer has been touted as the "silent killer" because of the disease's lack of early and obvious 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. Learn more about the specifics of each, below.


Early Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

According to the joint statement from the various health organizations mentioned above, 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 who have 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 at least two weeks and are not finding relief from over-the-counter medications.
  • Pelvic Pain: As with bloating, you may experience 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 you're having dull menstrual cramps or, when they're more severe, they may even require you to lie 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 a Strong Urgency To Urinate: If you feel that you are experiencing frequent urination and you 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, you should also be evaluated by a doctor, who will likely order a urinalysis to check for abnormalities.

    The problem with these symptoms that are listed above is that they are vague, and they don't often raise red flags for the disease. They also 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

    While some women with ovarian cancer may experience early symptoms, 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 that you're tempted not to give them a second thought. But if you notice that these symptoms are persistent and more 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 health.


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