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Symptoms of ovarian cancer

Find out about possible symptoms of ovarian cancer and when to see your doctor.

How to tell whether symptoms are ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer symptoms are not always easy to spot as they can be vague.

There is more chance that symptoms are caused by cancer if they:

  • are new
  • are quite severe
  • don't come and go

If you have any of the symptoms below and they happen on most days for 3 weeks or more, particularly if you are over 50 or have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, do go to your GP and get a check up.

Remember these symptoms can also be a sign of other illnesses that are not cancer. Most women with symptoms like these will not have cancer.

Symptoms of very early stage ovarian cancer

The stage of a cancer describes how far it has grown and spread. Very early stage cancer means cancer that is completely inside the ovary - it is also called stage 1.

Many women with a very early stage of ovarian cancer don't have any symptoms. If they do, they can include:

  • pain in the lower tummy (abdomen) or side
  • a bloated, full feeling in the abdomen

Symptoms if the cancer has grown outside the ovary

Cancer that has grown outside the ovary includes stage 2 and stage 3 ovarian cancer.

These may cause symptoms from the tumour growing anywhere in the area between the hip bones (the pelvis), such as:

  • irregular periods or vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • lower tummy (abdominal) pain
  • back pain
  • passing urine more often than usual
  • constipation
  • pain during sex
  • a swollen abdomen
  • a feeling of fullness or loss of appetite

Symptoms of ovarian cancer that has spread further away

Doctors call cancer that has spread to another part of the body, such as the lungs, stage 4 ovarian cancer.  

Symptoms may include:

  • loss of appetite or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen
  • feeling or being sick
  • constipation
  • tiredness
  • shortness of breath
  • a noticeable swelling of the abdomen
When to see your doctor

You should see your doctor if you have:

  • symptoms that are unusual for you
  • symptoms that don't go away

Your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer but it is important to get them checked by a doctor. Depending on your symptoms, you may need to see a specialist doctor.

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.