The Institute for Women's Health

Symptoms and Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer: Ovarian cancer can be difficult to detect since its symptoms tend to be vague and similar to the symptoms of many other non-cancerous conditions. This can be dangerous, since many women will spend months visiting different kinds of physicians and never think of visiting an OB/GYN. It is important for all women to know the symptoms and to ask their doctors about their risk for ovarian cancer.

Early detection of ovarian cancer is key. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist the most common symptoms are:

  1. Bloating or increase in abdominal size
  2. Pelvic or abdominal pain
  3. Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly


If any of those symptoms persist for more than two weeks, are frequent or get worsen over time, it is highly recommended that you visit an OB/GYN. Additional symptoms, include fatigue, upset stomach, back pain, pain during sex, constipation, menstrual changes, abdominal swelling with weight loss and urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency.

The overall 5 year survival for ovarian cancer is 45%. The main reason this number is so low is because most women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at more advanced stages, when the cancer has spread. Chances for survival are increased if ovarian cancer is detected at an earlier stage. Early detection can be difficult, but having a yearly pelvic exam and discussing your risks factors for ovarian cancer with your OB/GYN may help improve your chances for early detection.

Risks factors for ovarian cancer include age older than 55 years, family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, or endometrial cancer, personal history of breast cancer , genetic mutation such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 , never having had children, infertility and endometriosis. There are some additional tests that your OB/GYN may order if you are considered high risk to help detect ovarian cancer early. If you or a woman you know could be at risk, it is extremely important you visit your OB/GYN to make sure you are getting checked properly and in a timely manner. If you have any additional questions or concerns please visit The Institute for Women’s Health.

Guerrero, Jessica D., MD
The Institute for Women’s Health


Sources & References: