Symptoms of ovarian cancer 

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognise, particularly in its early stages.

This is because they are often the same as symptoms of other less serious conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).

However, three main symptoms are more frequent in women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. They are:

  • increased abdominal size and persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
  • persistent pelvic and abdominal pain
  • difficulty eating and feeling full quickly, or feeling nauseous

Other symptoms, such as back pain, needing to pass urine more frequently than usual, and pain during sex may be the result of other conditions in the pelvic area. However, they may be present in some women with ovarian cancer.

If you have these types of symptoms, try keeping a diary to record how many of these symptoms you have over a longer period. Bear in mind that ovarian cancer is rare in women under 40 years of age.

See your GP if you have these symptoms regularly (on most days for three weeks or more). Although it's unlikely they're being caused by a serious problem, it's best to check.

If you've already seen your GP and the symptoms continue or get worse, you should go back and explain this. You know your body better than anyone.

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Page last reviewed: 21/01/2015

Next review due: 21/01/2017