The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer can be easy to miss. They may be difficult to notice or detect because the ovaries are located deep within the abdominal cavity. They can also be mistaken for other health issues. Often, the signs and symptoms are subtle, making ovarian cancer difficult to detect in its early stages. This is why only about 20% of cases are diagnosed in the early stages (stages I-II). Often symptoms don’t appear until the disease is in its advanced stages (stages III-IV).
Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- You may notice swelling in the lower pelvis or abdomen and clothes around the waist may feel tighter than normal
- Pain in abdomen, back or pelvis
- Feeling full after eating only a few bites or loss of appetite
- Feeling the need to urinate more frequently
Less common symptoms of ovarian cancer:
- Discomfort or pain during sex
- Pain or discomfort in the lower back
- Feeling more tired than usual and more often
- Changes to your monthly menstrual cycle including additional bleeding or vaginal discharge
- This may include diarrhea or changes in bowel habits such as urgency or pain
What if ovarian cancer symptoms persist?
It is important to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. If symptoms do not go away within two weeks following normal interventions such as laxatives, rest, or changing diet and exercise, contact a physician immediately. There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer. That is why it is important to know the signs and symptoms and report them to your doctor.