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Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Businesswoman with abdominal pains

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognise. They are often similar to far commoner and much less serious conditions such as pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

What are ovarian cancer symptoms?

Not all women with ovarian cancer have symptoms. Those that do tend to report having had some of the following on most days in the months leading up to their diagnosis:

  • Persistent pain in the pelvis and abdomen
  • Persistent bloating or increased abdominal size
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

Less commonly, women with ovarian cancer may also report the following:

  • Change in their bowel habit (e.g. how often they need to go to the toilet to open their bowels)
  • needing to pass urine more frequently
  • ‘heartburn’ or indigestion
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Constipation

If you are experiencing these symptoms on most days you should go to your GP and explain your concerns to them. This is particularly the case if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer or if you are over 50.

Symptoms may vary depending on the stage of the cancer. Women with the earliest stage of the disease may not have any symptoms at all, so women in high risk groups may opt for screening to try to detect ovarian cancer before symptoms are noticeable.

What should I do if I think I have the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

It is unlikely that you have ovarian cancer and your symptoms are more likely to be due to a benign cause other than cancer but it is important to be checked. You should go to your GP and explain your concerns to them. They should ask you about your symptoms and family history, examine your abdomen and pelvis and ask you to have a CA125 blood test. If the examination or blood test is abnormal, they should refer you for an ultrasound scan to look at your ovaries.

The Ovarian Cancer Screening Centre offers state of the art assessment by expert gynaecological oncologists for women with ovarian cancer symptoms. We use high resolution ultrasound and the latest tumour marker blood tests to predict your likelihood of having ovarian cancer.