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signs woman has ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer was long believed to remain “silent” until it spread. However, recent studies have confirmed that early-stage ovarian cancer can produce noticeable symptoms, some of which may come on suddenly.

Because an early diagnosis is the key to the best possible outcome and quality of life, all women are urged to learn about the early symptoms of ovarian cancer and to promptly discuss any unusual changes with a gynecologic oncologist.

What are the signs of ovarian cancer?

The early signs of ovarian cancer are often vague and easily ignored or attributed to other causes. Some changes to watch for include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic pain
  • A quick feeling of fullness while eating
  • Urinary urgency
  • Urinary frequency
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Constipation
  • Menstruation changes (heavier-than-normal bleeding or irregular bleeding)
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

While many of these symptoms can be caused by noncancerous conditions, when they are caused by ovarian cancer, they occur more often and tend to be more severe. Most women begin experiencing symptoms after the cancer has spread, but some women in early-stage ovarian cancer may notice these changes. In any case, women should consult with their physician if they are experiencing frequent symptoms.

Could it be ovarian cancer?

One reason why ovarian cancer is so difficult to detect in its early stages is that many women mistakenly believe that the changes they are experiencing are related to weight gain, the natural aging process or a health issue that is much less serious than cancer, such as gastrointestinal distress or a urinary tract infection. More often than not, one of those reasons is to blame; however, it is important to be sure—and not to wait to find out. Bottom line: If any of the above-listed symptoms is new for you, you should consult with a gynecologic oncologist right away.

Medically reviewed by Jing-Yi Chern, MD, ScM, gynecologic oncologist 

If you would like to discuss your ovarian cancer symptoms with an oncologist in the gynecological clinic at Moffitt Cancer Center, you can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online.