Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries and nearby tissues like the fallopian tubes or peritoneum. According to the
Early ovarian cancer may not have any symptoms. Additionally, when they are present, many symptoms of ovarian cancer resemble other common gynecological conditions. This can lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment.
The outlook for ovarian cancer is best when it’s found and treated early. Because of this, knowing the symptoms and risk factors for ovarian cancer is vital. That way, you can see a doctor promptly if you develop concerning symptoms.
The potential symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Pain: Pain due to ovarian cancer can be felt in many ways, including as:
- Bloating: Abdominal bloating can make your abdomen look swollen or distended.
- Changes in bathroom habits: This can include things like:
- Eating difficulties: Some people with ovarian cancer may find that they have:
- trouble eating
- fullness shortly after eating
- Fatigue: Fatigue is a feeling of extreme tiredness or a lack of energy.
- Period changes: These can include things like periods that are irregular or heavy.
- Abnormal discharge: Vaginal bleeding, particularly after menopause, or abnormal vaginal discharge can be signs of ovarian cancer.
- Weight loss: Some women with ovarian cancer may notice that they have lost a noticeable amount of weight without trying to.
Pay attention to symptoms that are persistent
Many of the symptoms described above can happen due to other common conditions and go away with time or treatment. With ovarian cancer, the symptoms are often persistent, becoming more severe as time passes.
Knowing the risk factors for ovarian cancer is important. If you have risk factors, talk with a doctor about screening tests that can help detect ovarian cancer early.
Many risk factors are associated with your personal or family medical history and include:
- a family history of certain cancers like:
- ovarian cancer
- a personal history of cancers like:
- breast cancer
- colorectal cancer
- uterine cancer
- inherited genetic changes in genes like BRCA1 or BRCA2
- certain health conditions like:
- overweight or obesity
- family cancer syndromes like Lynch syndrome or Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
Additional risk factors for ovarian cancer are:
- being older than 40
never carried a pregnancy to full-term giving birth after age 35
- taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause
- using fertility treatments
Having risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll get ovarian cancer
Remember that having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely get ovarian cancer. It means that you’re at an elevated risk compared to the general population. If you’re at an elevated risk for ovarian cancer, talk with a doctor as you may need more frequent monitoring.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any of the symptoms described above and:
- have one or more risk factors for ovarian cancer
- notice that the symptoms linger, even with treatment
- experience symptoms that begin to worsen