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Ovarian cancer

  • Alternative Names

    Cancer - ovaries


    Ovarian cancer symptoms are often vague. Women and their doctors often blame the symptoms on other, more common conditions. By the time the cancer is diagnosed, the tumor has often spread beyond the ovaries.

    You should see your doctor if you have the following symptoms on a daily basis for more than a few weeks:

    • Bloating
    • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
    • Pelvic or abdominal pain

    Other symptoms are also seen with ovarian cancer. However, these symptoms are also common in women who do not have cancer:

    • Abnormal menstrual cycles
    • Digestive symptoms:
      • Constipation
      • Increased gas
      • Indigestion
      • Lack of appetite
      • Nausea and vomiting
    • Sense of pelvic heaviness
    • Swollen abdomen or belly
    • Unexplained back pain that worsens over time
    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Vague lower abdominal discomfort
    • Weight gain or loss

    Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:

    • Excessive hair growth
    • Increased urinary frequency or urgency

    Signs and tests

    A physical examination may reveal a swollen abdomen and fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites). A pelvic examination may reveal an ovarian or abdominal mass.

    A CA-125 blood test is not considered a good screening test for ovarian cancer. However, it may be done if a woman:

    • Has symptoms of ovarian cancer
    • Has already been diagnosed with ovarian cancer to determine how well treatment is working

    Other tests that may be done include:

    • Complete blood count and blood chemistry
    • Pregnancy test (serum HCG)
    • CT or MRI of the pelvis or abdomen
    • Ultrasound of the pelvis

    Surgery such as a pelvic laparoscopy or exploratory laparotomy may be done to evaluate symptoms and perform a biopsy to help make the diagnosis.

    No lab or imaging test has ever been shown to be able to diagnose ovarian cancer in its early stages.