Symptoms & Risks

Let’s talk about your O’s -as in your ovaries. Ovarian cancer is the most fatal gynecological disease, and with no screening test, knowing the symptoms and risk factors can save your life. So, if you experience:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (Urgency or frequency)

for more than two weeks, it’s time to speak up!

Women with ovarian cancer reported symptoms which were persistent and represented a change from what was normal for them. The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Even early stage ovarian cancer can produce these symptoms.

Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer. These symptoms include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities. However, these other symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also found in equal frequency in women in the general population who do not have ovarian cancer.

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.

If your doctor suspects Ovarian Cancer, they will order some tests, including a CA125 blood test and a transvaginal ultrasound. Once Ovarian Cancer is suspected, it is important to see a Gynecological Oncologist (specialists at diagnosing and treating ovarian cancer). Studies have shown improved outcomes for women who are treated by Gynecological Oncologists compared to those who are cared for by general gynecologist or doctors.

O Risks….Knowing your own personal risk factors is important. Having a risk factor for ovarian cancer does not necessarily mean that a woman will get Ovarian Cancer. We encourage women with risk factors to talk to their doctor. If you have a personal or family history, speak to your doctor about referral for genetic risk assessment by a Certified Genetic Counselor.

  • Age: Your risk increases with your age, most women with Ovarian Cancer are diagnosed over the age of 55.
  • Family History: Your risk is higher if you have a close blood relative (i.e. parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew), on either your mother’s or father’s side of the family, who has had breast cancer prior to age 50, ovarian cancer at any age, or male breast cancer at any age.
  • Personal History: Women who have had cancer of the breast, uterus, colon or rectum have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Reproductive History: If you have never had children or have a history of difficulty getting pregnant, you are at increased risk.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy: If you have taken Hormone Replacement Therapy, you may be at higher risk.
  • Ethnicity: White women from European and North America have a higher risk, as do Jewish women of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) descent.
  • Endometriosis: If you have had a history of endometriosis, you are at higher risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Genetic Testing: Genetic testing indicating you have BRCA 1 or 2, or Lynch Syndrome also known as HNPCC puts you at a much higher risk for ovarian cancer.
  • Obesity: Being obese can put you at higher risk for some types of ovarian cancer.

The Ovarian Cancer Project is empowering women through education, awareness, and support. So, let’s talk about your ovaries. Don’t go silent. Know the symptoms. Know the risk factors for ovarian cancer.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is designed to aid women in making decisions about appropriate gynecologic care and does not substitute for evaluations with qualified medical professionals familiar with you.