Symptoms of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women, but to put this in perspective, the average GP sees only one case of ovarian cancer every five years.

It can be difficult to diagnose because some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer are similar to those seen in less serious and more common conditions. Most women are not diagnosed until the disease has spread, which is why it is important that women know the symptoms, so that they can seek advice as early as possible.

Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • Bloating that is persistent and does not come and go
  • Difficulty eating and feeling full more quickly
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain that is experienced most days
  • Changes in urination or bowel habits

These symptoms are often experienced by women, but when they are experienced frequently, persistently and severely the likelihood of ovarian cancer increases. Other symptoms can include:

  • Feeling unusually tired
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Indigestion
  • Back pain

Again, it is most likely that these symptoms are not ovarian cancer, but they could still indicate the disease. Vaginal bleeding should always be investigated.

If you regularly experience any of these symptoms, which are not normal for you, it is important that you see your GP. It is unlikely that your symptoms are caused by a serious problem, but it is important they are checked out. You should also mention if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. There is currently not enough evidence to support screening for ovarian cancer.

If you have already visited your GP and the symptoms continue or worsen, it is important to return and explain this to your doctor – you know your body better than anyone.

If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, your doctor may refer you for an ultrasound scan and a blood test. These are available as NHS treatment.

If you wish to pay for an ultrasound scan privately, you may still need a GP referral. There are many private companies and healthcare providers offering this service and prices can range from less than £100 to around £400. If you would like the contact details of private providers in your local area, please contact our Support Line on 0800 008 7054 and we will be happy to assist you.

Last review April 2018
Date of next review April 2020

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