6 ovarian cancer signs and symptoms every woman should know:
- Changes in appetite
- Bloating or increase in abdominal girth
- Frequent urination
- Changes in menstruation
- Discomfort in the pelvis
- Low energy
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to learn more about early detection and save lives. About 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in the US. While about half of all cases happen in women who are age 63 and older, all women face some risk of developing the disease. Certain risk factors, including being overweight and a history of ovarian cancer in the family, may increase your chances of being diagnosed. Ovarian cancer research clinical trials are underway, but it’s still good for patients to be educated about detecting ovarian cancer early.
Only 19% of women are diagnosed in the early stages of this disease. That’s because many symptoms of ovarian cancer could also be signs of less serious medical problems. However, if you notice any of these symptoms for more than 12 days per month and they are new to you, it is time to visit your gynecologist for a checkup:
1. Changes in Appetite
Some women with ovarian cancer will notice they suddenly have trouble eating or are full very quickly. If you can’t explain these changes in your appetite due to stress or other known stomach problems, you should schedule an appointment with your physician.
2. Bloating or Increase in Abdominal Girth
Bloating can be a common symptom of PMS or eating a lot of salt. However, if you have a sudden increase in the size of your abdomen it could also signal a problem with your ovarian health. You may or may not have pain along with bloating, even if it is a symptom of ovarian cancer.
3. Frequent Urination
Women with ovarian cancer may also notice that they suddenly have to use the restroom more often. Because your bladder and ovaries are close together, your urinary tract can be affected by the health of your ovaries. You may also notice that you have to go to the bathroom urgently more often.
4. Changes in Menstruation
A change to your period cycle could be related to ovarian health. If you are premenopausal and suddenly have more painful periods or an irregular cycle, you should schedule a physical with your doctor. This is especially true if you are unable to manage a regular and pain-free cycle even while on oral birth control. Similarly, if you are postmenopausal and have unexpected bleeding you should go to a gynecologist for an exam.
5. Discomfort in the Pelvis
Cancer research shows that pain in and around your pelvis and hips can be another sign of ovarian cancer. If you have discomfort that can’t be explained by cramps or constipation, it may be a sign you should have your ovarian health checked.
6. Low Energy
A general lack of energy that can’t be fixed with diet or exercise could also be a sign of cancer. If you have tried taking vitamins, getting more sleep and other traditional remedies without success, it’s worth a trip to the doctor to find out what is going on.
Early detection is key for overcoming ovarian cancer. The sooner it is identified, the early you can start treatment. If you notice any of these signs for a prolonged period of time or they can’t be explained, visit your doctor as soon as possible.
Originally published September 2017. Updated December 2018.