10 early signs of ovarian cancer

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The symptoms of ovarian cancer are easy to be overlooked as they appear similar to other common diseases, or they are not consistent. It is more likely to have symptoms if the cancer has spread to other parts, but there are some signs that may appear at an early stage. 

The early symptoms of ovarian cancer include the following:

  • abdominal bloating
  • Pressure, and pain in the abdomen
  • Felling full quickly after eating 
  • Problem in eating
  • Increase in urination
  • Frequent urge to urinate

These symptoms can also be caused by benign or non-cancerous diseases and by cancers related to other organs. However, when these are caused due to ovarian cancer, they are likely to be persistent and different from normal, such as, they will occur more often or in more severe manner. 

Other symptoms that can be caused by ovarian cancer include:

  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Abdominal problems such as indigestion, heartburn and constipation
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Back pain
  • Dermatomyositis – an inflammatory disease that causes skin rash, muscle weakness, and inflammation of the muscles

Again, many of these symptoms may occur due to other reasons and not necessarily due to ovarian cancer. It is advised that if you experience unexplained abdominal symptoms that last more than 2 weeks, then consult a doctor and get a check-up. The chances of successful treatment increases when cancer is detected early. 

Symptoms get more severe as the tumour grows and spreads outside the ovaries, making it harder to treat the cancer effectively.

As it is difficult to diagnose ovarian cancer at an early stage, experts suggest that the best way to reduce chances of developing the advanced stages of ovarian cancer is to talk to your family doctor or gynaecologist about any potential symptoms as soon as possible. 

Signs including unexplained symptoms of ovarian cancer, or any persistent abdominal or pelvic symptoms, that are:

  • unrelated to other diagnosed medical condition
  • not responding to treatment, for instance, back pain that does not lessen with rest and using ice, or an indigestion that does not get better with changes in diet 
  • Continues for more than 2 weeks
  • Happens more than 12 days a month

Ways that can help find ovarian cancer at an early stage 

Regular exams and screening 

Screening tests are used to detect diseases, such as cancer, in people when they haven’t experienced any particular symptoms. For ovarian cancer, the 2 tests that are often used (in addition to pelvic exam) to screen for ovarian cancer include trans vaginal ultrasound (TVUS) and the CA-125 blood test.

In a Transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) test, sound waves are used to examine the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. The doctor puts an ultrasound wand into the woman’s vagina and look for a mass or tumour in the ovary. This test can’t distinguish if the mass is cancerous or benign. During screening, most cases where the masses are found, they are not cancerous.

The other test is CA-125 blood test which is used to measure the amount of protein known as CA-125 in the blood. Women with ovarian cancer are likely to have high levels of CA-125. It can be used as a tumour marker to help plan treatment in women who are known to have ovarian cancer as a high level often decreases when the treatment is working. But CA-125 levels may not be as useful in a screening test for ovarian cancer as it is more often caused by other common conditions such as endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease. Also, it is not necessary that all women who have ovarian cancer will have a high CA-125 level. When a person who is not known to have ovarian cancer is diagnosed with an abnormal CA-125 level, the doctor may ask to repeat the test to ensure the result is correct. They may recommend a transvaginal ultrasound test for further confirmation.

Risk factors

There are certain risk factors that make some women more likely to have ovarian cancer. These are:

  • Family history: A relative who had breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer
  • Genetic: BRCA1 and BRAC2 gene
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Age: most women with this cancer develop it after menopause
  • Obesity
  • Never been pregnant
  • Certain fertility and hormone medicines
  • Endometriosis


The treatment for ovarian cancer is planned on the basis of several factors including the spread of cancer, other organs that have been affected, overall health status and others. 

Commonly used treatment options for ovarian cancer include the following:

  • Chemotherapy 
  • Radiation therapy 
  • Surgery for remove the tumour or biopsy to diagnose the stage 
  • Targeted therapy
  • Hormone therapy

These options may be used in combination to provide effective treatment. Indian hospitals offer all kinds of treatment options for patient with ovarian cancer at reasonable cost packages. Ovarian Cancer surgery cost in India is remarkable lower in comparison to other countries, especially in the west. 


Dr. Suneet holds a post-graduate degree in Hospital and Healthcare management from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
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Rahul Kashyup