The earlier ovarian cancer is detected, the better. Early stages of ovarian cancer are easier to treat than advanced stages. Unfortunately, early stages of ovarian cancer cause very few noticeable symptoms. This isn’t the case for late-stage ovarian cancer.
Advanced ovarian cancer causes significant symptoms. It’s important to work with your doctor to address these symptoms as each symptom may require specific treatment.
In many cases, treatment will begin to ease your symptoms, but it’s important you are aware of potential side effects. You, your doctor, and your cancer care team can put into place a plan for when the symptoms become problematic or painful.
Symptoms of Advanced Ovarian Cancer
The most common symptoms of advanced or late-stage ovarian cancer include:
Pelvic or Abdominal Pain
In the early stages of ovarian cancer, pain in this area may either be hard to identify or attributed to another condition. It can also be easily ignored. But advanced ovarian cancer often causes a great deal of pain and discomfort in the pelvic and abdominal regions of your body.
Constipation may be the most obvious sign of a bowel obstruction. Large ovarian cancer tumors may block your intestines and prevent your body from working as it should. This can lead to significant pain and discomfort, especially as the blockage worsens. The blockage may lead to additional symptoms beyond constipation, including:
- pain and discomfort
- feeling bloated and uncomfortable
- vomiting and nausea
- general sick feeling
Over-the-counter and prescription medications can help with some constipation symptoms. These treatments can ease discomfort, but surgery may eventually be necessary.
Kidney pain is hard to detect, mostly because it can just feel like back pain. Sometimes ovarian cancer can spread and impact the urinary system. The cancerous tumor can block one or both of the ureters. Ureters are responsible for moving liquid waste between the kidneys and the bladder. If one or both of these tubes become blocked, your urine will not reach the bladder. You’re likely to experience swelling and pain as a result. Eventually the kidney will become damaged if left untreated and the pressure isn’t relieved.
Bloating and swelling in the abdomen can be a sign of ovarian cancer at any stage. It can also be the sign of several other, nonfatal conditions. That’s why many women often ignore this symptom. In the late stages of ovarian cancer, however, bloating and swelling may become persistent and unrelenting. Over-the-counter remedies may not be able to ease this discomfort, but your doctor can work with you to reduce secondary bloating. Secondary bloating is bloating caused by other factors, like the foods you’re eating or the beverages you’re drinking. Addressing secondary bloating can help reduce your overall discomfort.
Unexpectedly losing weight, or losing a large amount of weight without putting forth effort, is another symptom of advanced ovarian cancer. It’s important you work with your doctor and a registered dietitian or medical nutritionist to ensure your body is getting the proper food it needs to function. Eating calories for the sake of trying to maintain your weight isn’t as healthy as eating the right kind of calories in a balanced, sensible diet.
As cancer cells grow, they can expand and begin to push on neighboring organs. One such organ is the bladder. Pressure on the bladder and urinary system may make you feel the need to urinate more frequently.
Individuals with late-stage ovarian cancer may experience ascites, or the buildup of fluid in the abdomen. This fluid buildup can begin for several reasons. In some cases, cancer cells that travel into the abdomen aggravate the surrounding tissue. That causes fluid to build up. Additionally, cancer cells can block the lymphatic system and prevent the excess fluid from draining out of the abdomen. That compounds the swelling and bloating, which may make the condition very uncomfortable.
As always, it’s important to pay attention to your body and any symptoms you’re experiencing. Talk to your doctor if you begin noticing any of these symptoms as they may lead to an advanced ovarian cancer diagnosis.