Ovarian cancer can be seen as “the silent killer” due to the lack of symptoms it shows, especially in the early stages. And even as the disease progresses, the signs and symptoms can still be blurry and hard to identify because they can be confused with other issues.
Below we give you an elaborate description of all the signs and symptoms that are linked with ovarian cancer so that you can get informed and diagnose it before it gets to the final stages.
There are 4 main symptoms of ovarian cancer that appear in the early stage.
There are odd symptoms, also known as silent ones because they overlap with the symptoms of other common illnesses which make it hard to identify whether they are signs of ovarian cancer or another condition that is not cancer.
However, if you ignore these silent symptoms, your condition will probably worsen as time passes. So, whenever you feel that something is off, don’t ignore that feeling. Instead, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
Bloating during your menstrual period is normal and expected, and also when eating certain food that is known to cause bloating. However, if the bloating doesn’t go away it is considered a red flag. Constant bloating is the first and most common symptom of ovarian cancer. (7)
According to a study, around 72% of people with ovarian cancer claimed they have experienced bloating. They describe the feeling as “it makes your clothes dig into your waist”, “it feels as though you’re pregnant,” and “it makes it hard to button or zip your pants.” (8)
According to a study, around 20% of the people diagnosed with ovarian cancer have noticed diarrhea, constipation, or other changes in their bathroom habits. (9)
Moreover, having a greater sense of urgency and a need for more frequent urination is also a sign of ovarian cancer. 7% of the diagnosed people said that they had urinary problems first. (10)
Abdominal or pelvic pain is also a common symptom among people struggling with ovarian cancer. Namely, a study found that around 40% of women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer also reported having abdominal pain. (11)
The feeling varies from person to person. Some people say that the pain is like intense pressure, while others compare it to menstrual cramping. Moreover, what causes the pain is also different. And as the tumor grows, it puts pressure on other parts of the body as well, such as your bladder, spine, and rectum.
Ovarian cancer may cause you to bleed more heavily than usual, miss a period, experience vaginal discharge that is not like any other, or have spotting or bleeding when you are not on your period.
If you are in menopause, call your doctor if you notice vaginal bleeding. That is a sign of ovarian cancer as well.
Back pain is a condition that affects millions of people. And while most of the time, it is a pain that is caused by an injury, it can be also a sign of ovarian cancer. (12)
So, if you haven’t had an injury to your back, it is advisable to call your healthcare professional immediately and book an appointment.
Because the symptoms and signs of ovarian cancer are vague, it is hard to know when you should get concerned and call your doctor. However, you should definitely get an appointment with your doctor if the symptoms of ovarian cancer are new to you, are persistent, and happen more than 12 times a month.
There are many reasons why a swelling or a mass may occur in your pelvic area. In fact, a pelvic mass usually causes symptoms similar to the symptoms of ovarian cancer, such as pelvic pain, nausea and vomiting, needing to pee often, swelling in your belly, pain during sex, weight gain, lower back pains, and unusual vaginal bleeding.
However, there are 3 main differences between ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer.
Your ovaries are organs that are shaped like two almonds. They produce the female hormones and store the eggs. If you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, that means that cancerous cells are discovered inside them. So, after the diagnosis, the doctor will tell you which stage you are in, in order to know what exactly happens in your body.
Staging is a medical term used by doctors to pinpoint the location and the size of the tumor. With correct identification of which stage the cancer is, they can give you the best treatment.
Here’s what happens in each stage.
This stage is the least advanced stage. This means that cancer has not spread outside of your ovaries. It is further divided into:
Ovarian cancer stage 2 has not yet spread to your lymph nodes or organs in distant parts of your body. However, it has reached the organs which are close to your ovaries.
Stage 2A: Cancer cells are found in your fallopian tubes, your uterus, or both.
Stage 2B: Cancer has spread to your pelvic organs such as your colon, rectum, or bladder.
Besides your nearby organs like your bladder and uterus, stage 3 ovarian cancer is now also located in your stomach lining, the lymph nodes behind your belly, or both.
Stage 3A1: Cancer cells are in your nearby lymph nodes and are also growing in your nearby organs.
Stage 3A2: Tiny cancer deposits are found in your stomach lining, but can be seen only with a microscope. Also, cancer cells can be found in your nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 3B: There are cancer growths in your belly that your doctor saw during surgery, but they are less than 2 cm across which are probably outside your liver and spleen and in your lymph nodes.
Stage 3C: This is like Stage 3B, only in this stage the cancer growths are bigger than 2 cm.
This is the most advanced stage of ovarian cancer. Stage 4 is a red signal that cancer has spread to some of your distant organs.
Stage 4A: Cancer cells are in the fluid around your lung. However, it hasn’t spread to other areas outside your pelvis or abdomen.
Stage 4B: Cancer cells have been found inside your tissues, lymph nodes, and organs, including your lungs, brain, or your skin.
Talk openly with your doctor about your stage and your concerns. If you feel scared and anxious, it is advisable to share your feelings and concerns and join a support group. (13)
Ovarian cancer mimics the symptoms of other common conditions and that is why it is so hard to detect in the earliest and most curable stages. Plus, when the symptoms do show up they often get confused for something else, and thus the cancer is left untreated until it’s too late.
Therefore, if you experience bloating, abdominal pain, back pain, missed periods, unusual vaginal bleeding, changes in your appetite, painful sex, or frequent need to urinate, call your doctor and get yourself tested.