The symptoms of ovarian cancer appear late. What should be of concern?

Cancer of the ovary is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the ovary’s covering, called the epithelium. It is the second most common cancer of a woman’s reproductive organs. It’s dangerous because it’s not found until it’s too late. For a long time, ovarian cancer didn’t show any signs, and when it did, the signs were vague and easy to miss.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer can grow without any signs or symptoms for several years. Early signs of ovarian cancer show up as the tumor grows. These signs can be seen at least a year before the full symptoms of the disease show up. The signs of ovarian cancer aren’t very specific, which means they could also be signs of a number of other health problems.

Early symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • feeling of fullness
  • belly bloating,
  • indigestion, heartburn, flatulence, constipation,
  • bladder pressure,
  • frequent urination,
  • quick feeling of fullness,
  • nausea,
  • stomach pain,
  • pelvic pain.

As the disease gets worse, abdominal masses, ascites (a buildup of fluid in the peritoneal cavity), and sometimes pleural effusions appear. A bigger stomach and sudden weight loss are frequent side effects of this. 

There may be signs of a urinary tract infection, such as pain when urinating, pressure in the bladder, and pain in the lower abdomen. Another sign is vaginal bleeding. In this instance, the bacteria’s entry into the bladder, uterus, or vaginal walls is what’s causing the symptoms. 

Symptoms of ovarian cancer that are unusual

You could say that all ovarian cancer symptoms are atypical in some way, because they can also be signs of other diseases. Atypical ovarian cancer symptoms can also be those that have nothing to do with the digestive or urinary systems, such as:

  • back pain, 
  • paleness,
  • tiredness,
  • weakness,
  • painful during intercourse
  • skin rash and muscle inflammation
  • irregular and/or heavy menstruation ,
  • shortness of breath (due to fluid accumulation, felt mainly when lying down).

These symptoms can also indicate the development of ovarian cancer.

Size of the tumor and signs of ovarian cancer

A tumor up to 7 cm in size doesn’t cause any symptoms. Only when it gets to be 11–15 cm in size do symptoms like abdominal pain, discomfort in the abdominal cavity, and often ascites get worse. Most of the time, by that time the tumor is already very far along and can’t be cured completely.

What tests to do?

Ultrasonography of the abdomen and transvaginal ultrasound are the easiest tests for ovarian cancer that are widely available and recommended. If you think you might have ovarian cancer, PET-CT, or Positron Emission Tomography, is a more accurate test. Cancer markers, especially CA 125, may also be helpful to find. Remember not to ignore symptoms like bloating, constipation, feeling full in the stomach, and pain in the lower abdomen. If they happen often, they should always be checked out further.

signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer metastases

Metastases that have spread from ovarian cancer frequently affect the peritoneum. It also spreads through the lymphatic vessels to the pelvic, periaortic, inguinal, and far-off mediastinal and supraclavicular lymph nodes, a process called metastasis. Metastasis can also happen in other organs, most often in the lungs, bones, vagina, and liver. When ascites are very bad, it may mean that the cancer has spread a lot in the peritoneum.

Lymphadenopathy, which is a general swelling of the lymph nodes, shows that the nodes are involved. Metastatic changes may be present if you have bone pain, vaginal bleeding, hemoptysis, recurrent pneumonia, or trouble breathing. As you can see, these are still not very clear signs that something is happening in the ovary.

Who is at risk of ovarian cancer?

Women of all ages can get ovarian cancer, but the risk goes up between the ages of 40 and 70. Women who have never given birth and women whose relatives have had ovarian cancer are more likely to get the disease. It goes down in women who have had babies and used birth control with hormones. According to the FIGO classification, about 70–80% of patients start treatment in clinical stage III or IV. When they are in an earlier stage, they are usually found by accident. This condition is linked to the lack of symptoms or the fact that they are not clear at first.



4th Professional Medical Student. Karachi Medical and Dental College.

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