Understanding ovarian cancer and its symptoms

Early stage ovarian cancer does not present many obvious symptoms and can be difficult to detect; however, if detected early, it can be treated successfully.

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer starts in the female reproductive glands, known as the ovaries. Typically, an early stage ovarian cancer diagnosis means that the cancer is confined to the ovaries; however, due to symptoms that are common with many other illnesses, it often goes undetected until it has spread to other areas of the body, such as the pelvis and the abdomen.

What are the symptoms?

If you or a loved one experiences the following symptoms, you should contact your doctor so he or she can evaluate your symptoms and perform diagnostic tests:1 

  • Feeling discomfort in the pelvis
  • Urinating frequently
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Changing bowel habits
  • Feeling full quickly when eating
  • Losing weight

If you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer and begin to experience any of these symptoms, it is especially important to notify your doctor, as there is a genetic component to ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer can be an intimidating diagnosis; however, it can be treated if diagnosed early. Knowing your family medical history and paying attention to changes in your health can help you and your doctor with early detection and diagnosis.

1. Mayo Clinic, "Ovarian cancer," accessed August 12, 2014, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-cancer/basics/symptoms/con-20028096.

Sources

American Cancer Society, "How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?" accessed August 12, 2014, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-cancer/basics/symptoms/con-20028096.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "What are the symptoms?" accessed August 12, 2014, http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/basic_info/symptoms.htm.

Mayo Clinic, "Ovarian cancer," accessed August 12, 2014, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-cancer/basics/symptoms/con-20028096.

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