10 Ovarian Cancer Symptoms You're Likely to Miss

Many patients don't get diagnosed until it's too late

By Hristina Byrnes,The Active Times

Ovarian cancer is the second most common type of gynecologic cancer in the U.S. It affects one to two of every 100 women. There are more than 30 different types of ovarian cancer, and each is classified based on the cells that are growing in the ovary, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
If a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer at Stage 1, she tends to do better and her chances of survival can certainly improve, Sarah DeFeo, Vice President, Scientific Affairs & Programs at the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance (OCRFA), says. However, patients don’t tend to be diagnosed in early stages because the symptoms are vague and can be caused by many other medical conditions, she adds.

Due to the fact that the sign of ovarian cancer can be confused with other illnesses, some of which are not serious at all, by the time a woman is referred to an oncologist, it may be too late. “It’s not uncommon for women to bounce around the medical system for that reason,” DeFeo says. “Some are lucky to have gone to a gynecologist for a routine check who may have noticed something.”

[post_ads]The problem is the signs are not necessarily gynecological. That’s why is crucial to know the risk factors. “Any woman can get it but most women won’t,” DeFeo says. Most women who develop ovarian cancer are post-menopausal.

The most significant risk factor for ovarian cancer is an inherited genetic mutation in one of two genes: breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) or breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2), according to OCRFA. Women with a close relative with ovarian cancer but no known genetic mutation still have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. 

Other risk factors include not having any kids and never taking birth control pills. “Taking oral contraceptives for five years reduces the chance of developing ovarian cancer by 50 percent,” DeFeo says.


Because the ovaries are located near the bladder and the intestines, gastrointestinal symptoms often occur, according to Cancer Center. Persistent bloating is one of the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer, DeFeo says. “Your clothes no longer fitting for no obvious reason; you have additional fluid in your abdomen.”

Trouble eating

This is another big symptom, DeFeo says. These signs are also commonly caused by non-cancerous diseases and by cancers of other organs. When they are caused by ovarian cancer, they tend to be persistent; they occur more often or are more severe. If a woman has these symptoms more than 12 times a month, she should see a doctor, according to the American Cancer Society.

Pelvic and abdominal pain

In a study, both early and late-stage patients had a higher prevalence of abdominal/pelvic pain and bloating than the comparison groups, primarily in the three months before diagnosis. Persistent pelvic pain or pelvic heaviness may come every month for a few months, then stop. It may also come randomly throughout the month. Getting an annual pelvic exam is currently one of the best ways to screen for symptoms of ovarian cancer. The other is routine gynecological checkups.

Feeling full quickly

“If you eat three bites of something and you feel full, that’s not normal,” DeFeo says. Early satiety is also a common sign of ovarian cancer. You should contact your health care provider if the feeling lasts for days to weeks and does not get better or if it occurs simultaneously with other possible symptoms, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Urgency to pee often

Sudden urge to urinate or needing to go more than usual, but you have increased your fluid intake, can also be signs of ovarian cancer and can easily be confused with something else, such as urinary tract infection. “Many people have symptoms and think it’s nothing serious,” DeFeo says. “That’s why we encourage them to know the risk factors,” she adds.

Nausea, diarrhea, constipation

These are not commonly associated with or the result of ovarian cancer. However, if persistent, indigestion or nausea can signal gynecologic cancers. Don’t dismiss the unusual and unexplained pain and see your doctor, preferable a gynecologist, if you feel woozy and lightheaded.

Unexplained weight loss or gain

Overweight or obese people who exercise and have been following a healthier diet are bound to lose weight. This can even reduce their risk of developing many types of cancer. However, suddenly losing or gaining five pounds in a few days without changing anything about your lifestyle can signal cancer. It could be ovarian if a woman is also experiencing some of the other common symptoms of pain during sex, according to MD Andersen Cancer Center.

Loss of appetite

The cancer can send chemicals to tell the brain to stop eating. This is a common digestive symptom that can be caused by ovarian cancer. But changes in metabolism and about a hundred other conditions can also cause poor appetite. You may have a reason to be concerned if this symptom is new, severe or don’t just come and go.

Abnormal vaginal bleeding

Vaginal bleeding that occurs between periods is a possible sign of ovarian cancer, according to NIH, but it is not uncommon with women who do not have cancer. Other possible reasons are cervical or uterine polyps, changes in hormone levels, or inflammation or infection of the cervix. Bloody, dark or smelly discharge is usually a sign of infection, but it can sometimes be cancer.

Unusual fatigue

“Unusual” varies with every person; it has to be unusual for you, DeFeo says. “You know how you normally feel; and it the fatigue is new for you and it lasts for 2-3 weeks, you should see a doctor,” she adds. Are you exhausted for no apparent reason? You have to judge the possible symptoms “against your own normal.

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Women's Lifestyle: 10 Ovarian Cancer Symptoms You're Likely to Miss
10 Ovarian Cancer Symptoms You're Likely to Miss
Many patients don't get diagnosed until it's too late
Women's Lifestyle
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