Symptoms & Detection
Ovarian cancer does have symptoms, but they are often very subtle and easily mistaken for other, more common problems. In some rare cases, early-stage ovarian cancers may produce symptoms, but in the majority of women these don’t show up until the cancer has advanced (when the growth of the tumor triggers symptoms). Several studies show that ovarian cancer can produce these symptoms:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
Women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from normal for their bodies. The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. See your doctor, preferably a gynecologist, if you have these symptoms for more than two weeks, and the symptoms are new or unusual for you.
While knowing the symptoms is important, since it may hasten a diagnosis, research has shown that symptom recognition alone is not useful in detecting ovarian cancer early and that earlier symptom recognition may not alter the course of the disease or outcome. More research is needed to find better ways to identify ovarian cancer and to treat it more successfully.
Other Symptoms Associated with Ovarian Cancer
Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer. These symptoms include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities. However, these other symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also found in equal frequency in women in the general population who do not have ovarian cancer.