The list of ovarian cancer symptoms is wide and vague, and it’s easy to misdiagnose your health issue as something else altogether. But avoiding the symptoms, particularly the early signs of ovarian cancer, can lead to more advanced stages of this cancer. And like with all cancers, the more advanced ovarian cancer is, the harder it is to treat.
For most women, these symptoms will appear and not go away. They will be a persistent problem and will only grow in severity. From the first signs of ovarian cancer, the symptoms will progress over time to more advanced ovarian cancer symptoms. This means that knowing what the symptoms are and how they might progress is key to being diagnosed early enough to treat ovarian cancer.
It is important to keep in mind that most women who have these symptoms do not have cancer. Also remember that ovarian cancer is rare in women under the age of 40. If you are younger than 40 and have some of these symptoms, you most likely have another type of health issue.
But it never hurts to be informed. For women who ask what are the symptoms of ovarian cancer, here is a complete list. They are grouped as early and advanced symptoms for your convenience.
Early Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
Early signs of ovarian cancer are often the hardest to detect. These symptoms are generally vague and concentrate on the pelvic area, leading many women — and their doctors — to think that they may just be signs of PMS.
Very Early Signs
The first signs of ovarian cancer generally include discomfort or pain in the lower abdomen area. It can feel almost like a cramp, except that it doesn’t subside. It is more of a dull ache or pain that lingers.
If a woman is about to begin her period when this occurs, it is easy to dismiss it as a sign of the ending phase of the menstrual cycle. Women over the age of 40 who experience pain in the lower abdomen may believe that it is a symptom of menopause.
Another symptom is a bloated feeling in the abdomen. It will feel as though a woman has held on to extra water weight, making clothes that fit around the waist and hips feel a bit tighter. Because many women experience bloating before their period begins, this may also be written off.
These signs can correlate to stage 1 of ovarian cancer. Women who get a diagnosis at this stage are the most likely to survive this cancer battle.
More Ovarian Cancer Early Warning Signs
If ovarian cancer is not caught during the earliest stages, the symptoms will progress toward the entire pelvic area. The symptoms of abdominal pain and bloating will continue, but will be accompanied by other issues.
Urinary symptoms will begin to emerge, such as constipation, increased gas, and more frequent and urgent urination. Abrupt changes in urinary patterns can be caused by a tumor growing outside of the ovaries and into the entire pelvic area.
Other warning signs are irregular periods, vaginal bleeding, and vaginal discharge, especially if a woman has already entered menopause. For women who are still menstruating regularly, heavy periods, or bleeding between periods, is a worrying sign of ovarian cancer.
Experiencing a loss of appetite, a feeling of fullness or getting full quickly when eating, pain during sex and unexplained back pain are also indicators of ovarian cancer. Excessive hair growth, especially hair that is coarse and dark, also happens at this stage of ovarian cancer.
Altogether these symptoms may seem to point to reproductive or digestive issues, and are hardly cause for alarm. But when coupled with a progression of symptoms and a family history of ovarian cancer, they can point to intermediate stages of ovarian cancer.
Women who experience these symptoms are often diagnosed with stage 2 or stage 3 ovarian cancer. It becomes harder to treat ovarian cancer in these stages, but it is not impossible. This is why a quick diagnosis is needed.
Advanced Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
These symptoms are often the most severe. They are constant and only grow over time, causing the woman to feel sick and unable to function at her normal speed.
Dangerous Signs of Ovarian Cancer
Most women at this stage will experience a swollen abdomen. It will be so severe that a woman’s clothes may not fit her around the waist anymore. This bloating, which does not go away no matter what a woman does, is caused by fluid that is filling the abdominal cavity.
The bloating goes hand in hand with increased weight gain, particularly around the waist and hips area. Most women at this stage complain of a loss of appetite but who also experience rapid weight gain. It is a sign that the tumor is growing out into the woman’s body.
Two signs that go hand in hand are the continuous feeling of being nauseous and vomiting. Women who have had children may find this is similar to morning sickness, but without calming down periods in-between bouts of being sick. This also leads to other signs, such as tiredness and a feeling of fatigue.
The most worrying sign of advanced ovarian cancer is a shortness of breath that cannot be reduced. This is a tell-tale sign that a woman is in stage 4 ovarian cancer. In other words, this cancer has spread to other organs in the body, such as the lungs.
Keep Track of Your Symptoms
All the symptoms above are ovarian cancer warnings. For most women, these symptoms are generally new and severe. However, they can also be vague. This means they can be attributed to any number of health issues. It can be hard to know when to go to your doctor. So what do you do?
Knowing what the ovarian cancer signs are is the first step. Keeping a journal of changes in your body is the next step. Whether it’s as small as noticing bloating or a change in your weight, seeing a log of the symptoms on paper will help you decide when to see your doctor.
Getting started with logging your systems can be easy. Buy a notebook or a journal where you keep track of minor changes in your body. If a certain symptom gets worse — like you’re urinating much more frequently — mark it in a unique color as a warning sign.
Make sure to read your journal of symptoms every week. Doing so will help you remember which symptoms have gone away and which have grown more severe. This will keep you informed about your own body’s changes so you can have an informed talk with your doctor.
If you do keep track of your symptoms, take your journal with you when you see your doctor. Show them the log in its entirety. Ask questions about the possibility that you may have primary or advanced ovarian cancer symptoms. Having a log of the symptoms you’ve gone to see your doctor about will make it easier for them to consider all the causes of your ailments.
Going to the doctor and being told that you are fine happens a lot to women who end up with ovarian cancer, so continue to log any symptoms you have. If your symptoms continue to grow in frequency or severity, go back to your doctor with your log. Ailments that do not go away are a sign that something is wrong.
(RELATED: Symtpoms, Stages & Treatments: discover everything you want to know about ovarian cancer)
When to Visit Your Doctor
If any of the above symptoms happen for more than three weeks on a regular basis, visit your doctor. This is especially true for women who are 40 and over, have a family history of ovarian cancer, and have a genetic mutation to the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. While the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer can seem mundane, catching it early is one of the best ways to beat this cancer.
When talking to your doctor, make sure to mention if you have a history of ovarian cancer in your family. If you know you have a genetic mutation that puts you at high risk for ovarian cancer, also share that information with your doctor. Chances are that if you’re showing early signs of ovarian cancer and you are at a higher risk for it, the doctor will automatically screen you.
It may be that your doctor comes to the conclusion that you don’t have any serious health issues. You might also be diagnosed with another health issue. However, if your symptoms persist or progress, or the medication you have been prescribed doesn’t work, go back to your doctor for another visit.
[youtube id=”9jr_s0o2onc” width=”600″ height=”340″ position=”left”]
Don’t wait for your symptoms to get worse before visiting your doctor. Stay informed and stay vigilant about your health. If you are concerned that your indigestion or your loss of appetite might be ovarian cancer symptoms, insist that your doctor screen you for ovarian cancer. That insistence might just save your life.
Source List for Signs and Symptoms
- Get the Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://www.ovariancancersymptomawareness.org/get-the-facts/
- Ovarian Cancer Signs and Symptoms. (n.d.). Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://www.ocrf.org/about-ovarian-cancer/what-is-ovarian-cancer/signs-and-symptoms-of-ovarian-cancer
- Ovarian Cancer | Who is at Risk? | Symptoms & Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved February 29, 2016, from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/womens-health/ovarian-cancer
- Ovarian cancer. (2014, June 12). Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-cancer/basics/symptoms/con-20028096
- Ovarian cancer – Symptoms . (n.d.). Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cancer-of-the-ovary/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
- Ovarian cancer symptoms. (n.d.). Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/ovarian-cancer/about/ovarian-cancer-symptoms
- Ovarian cancer: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (2014, November 26). Retrieved February 29, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000889.htm
- Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. (2014, August 5). Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovariancancer/detailedguide/ovarian-cancer-signs-and-symptoms
- Symptoms and Detection of Ovarian Cancer | Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. (2012, November 17). Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://www.ovariancancer.org/about/symptoms-of-ovarian-cancer-detection/
- What Are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer? (2014, March 07). Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/basic_info/symptoms.htm