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Ovarian cancer symptoms

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be very vague, particularly when the disease is in its early stages.

Symptoms of very early ovarian cancer

Many women with very early cancer of the ovary don't report any symptoms at all. Early symptoms can include pain in the lower abdomen or side, and/or a bloated, full feeling in the abdomen.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer that has grown outside the ovary

Once the cancer has grown out of the ovary, it can cause symptoms from the tumour growing anywhere in the area between the hip bones (the pelvis). This can cause lower tummy (abdominal) pain, back pain, passing urine more often than usual, constipation, pain during sex, or a swollen abdomen.  Women may also have irregular periods or bleeding after the menopause.

Symptoms of advanced ovarian cancer

Advanced ovarian cancer can cause even more symptoms because the cancer has spread into the abdomen or elsewhere in the body. These can include sickness, constipation, tiredness, shortness of breath, or a noticeable swelling of the abdomen.  You may have a loss of appetite, feeling full after eating or a general feeling of fullness in the abdomen.

If you do have any of these symptoms, particularly if they don't go away, go to your doctor and get a check up. Remember, other diseases apart from ovarian cancer can cause these symptoms. Most women with symptoms like these will not have cancer.

 

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How to tell whether symptoms are ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer symptoms are not necessarily easy to spot as they can be vague. And they can just about all be related to other much less serious conditions, particularly the symptoms for ovarian cancer that is less advanced.

There is more chance that symptoms are caused by cancer if they are new, quite severe, and 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 the symptoms on this page 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 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 and is also called stage 1.

Many women with a very early stage of ovarian cancer often don't have any symptoms at all. The symptoms may be very vague but can include

  • Pain in the lower abdomen or side
  • 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
  • Feeling of fullness or loss of appetite
 

Symptoms of ovarian cancer that has spread

Doctors call cancer that has spread to a distant body organ, 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
  • Noticeable swelling of the abdomen

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Updated: 25 January 2014