Signs & Symptoms
In the past, there was a common misperception that women with ovarian cancer do not have symptoms early in the disease. However, recent studies have shown that women with early stage ovarian cancer do tend to experience symptoms. Northwestern Memorial's Division of Gynecologic Oncology agrees with the consensus statement endorsed by the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance that lists ovarian cancer symptoms. Women with ovarian cancer are more likely to consistently experience:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
Increased abdominal size is also a common symptom.
Women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are new, persistent and represent a change from what they normally feel. The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Several studies show that even early stage ovarian cancer can produce symptoms.
When to See Your Doctor
Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their doctor, preferably a gynecologist. Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. Early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved prognosis.
Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer (these symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer):
- Back pain
- Pain with intercourse
- Menstrual irregularities
Current research is ongoing regarding a symptom awareness index, which may be used to help identify early ovarian cancer.
If you or a loved one has been told you may have or do have ovarian cancer, and you’d like to be evaluated or treated by one of the gynecologic oncologists at Northwestern Memorial, call 312-695-0990. An intake nurse will help you decide if a gynecologic cancer specialist is the right doctor for you, and may ask for your medical records or doctor’s referral.
If you don’t have a doctor or would like to make an appointment with a gynecologist for the first time, call 1-877-926-4664 or request an appointment online.
The ovarian cancer section was made possible by a generous grant from Bears Care.