Ovarian Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Gynecologic Oncology at Mercy

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

A standard test for ovarian cancer does not exist, making it difficult to detect ovarian cancer in its early stages. Ovarian cancer symptoms can be similar to other medical conditions and often are overlooked as possible cancer symptoms. Ovarian cancer symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal pressure
  • Unintentional weight changes
  • Pelvic discomfort, pressure, pain or pain during intercourse
  • Urinary frequency without an infection
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation or diarrhea
  • Trouble eating or feeling full
  • Increase in abdominal girth
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle
  • Lower back pain
  • Tiredness 

When to Seek an Ovarian Cancer Specialist

It is important to seek medical expertise when experiencing any of these possible ovarian cancer symptoms. The earlier ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the better the prognosis. 

It is especially important to see a gynecologic oncologist specializing in ovarian cancer if any of the possible ovarian cancer symptoms:

  • Appear suddenly
  • Are persistent
  • Gradually become worse

These characteristics of ovarian cancer symptoms are an important factor in differentiating the symptoms from other conditions.

Importance of Having the Best Ovarian Cancer Specialist Diagnose Symptoms

While ovarian cancer symptoms may be common symptoms of other conditions, such as digestive disorders or urinary disease, it is important to see a gynecologic oncologist who specializes in ovarian cancer to determine if the symptoms are related to ovarian cancer. 

Often ovarian cancer is overlooked as a possible cause of these symptoms since other specialists do not perform a pelvic examination as part of their physical exam. Women see various doctors to treat their symptoms, but by the time ovarian cancer is properly diagnosed by a gynecologic oncologist, it often is in the late stages. 

Our experienced doctors can evaluate your symptoms and determine the best next steps.

Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

Gynecologic oncologists specializing in ovarian cancer conduct a physical exam, imaging studies and blood tests when ovarian cancer is suspected. The physical exam consists of confirming the presence of a nodular or fixed pelvic mass and/or an abdominal mass as well as fluid (ascites) build up. 

Imaging studies may include:

  • Ultrasound – used to determine the size, appearance, consistency and location of the ovarian tumor
  • CT scan or MRI – taken of the chest, abdomen and pelvis to confirm if the tumor has spread

Blood tests are conducted to help detect tumor markers, which are substances that may be found in blood or other bodily fluids when cancer is present. Blood samples may be tested for any or all of the following tumor markers:

  • Cancer Antigen 125 (CA-125)
  • Carcinoembrionic Antigen (CEA)
  • Cancer Antigen 19-9 (CA-19-9)

A complete blood count and metabolic panel also are prepared from the blood samples.

Cancer specialists now are beginning to look at gene and protein patterns in the blood as additional tumor markers to help with cancer diagnoses. The OVA1 test looks at proteins that change when ovarian cancer is present. This test helps determine prior to surgery the likelihood of an ovarian mass to be cancerous.

A Risk of Ovarian Malignancy Algorithm (ROMA) also is starting to be used by ovarian cancer specialists. Using CA125 results and HE4 protein values establishes a ROMA score that can help classify a patient’s risk level of having epithelial ovarian cancer.

It is important that blood test results be examined along with the physical exam and imaging study results and the patient’s medical history to help determine the best treatment options possible.

Stages of Ovarian Cancer >