Symptoms of ovarian cancer 

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

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:

  • 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 and needing to pass urine more urgently and frequently than normal, may be the result of other conditions in the pelvic area. They are probably not ovarian cancer, but may be present in some women with the disease.

If you have any of these symptoms, keep a symptom diary to see how many of these symptoms you have over a longer period. Bear in mind ovarian cancer is rare in women under 40 years old. If you regularly have any of these symptoms, talk to your GP. It's unlikely they are being caused by a serious problem, but it's best to be checked.

If you've already seen your GP and the symptoms continue or get worse, it is important to go back and explain this, as you know your body better than anyone.

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Page last reviewed: 01/11/2012

Next review due: 01/11/2014