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symptoms of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer symptoms are often mistaken for less serious issues women experience regularly. It’s important to know the symptoms, and if they persist for four weeks or more, see your doctor.

Common ovarian cancer symptoms include:

Bloating

Eating less and feeling fuller

Abdominal, pelvic or back pain

Needing to pee more or urgently

Bowel habit changes

Fatigue

But indigestion, abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, unexplained weight changes and painful sex are also possible.

Most people with ovarian cancer only experience one or two symptoms at first.

Even if your symptoms are mild, if they haven’t gone away after four weeks you should tell your GP.

Most of the time the symptoms won’t be ovarian cancer, but it is really important to get them checked just in case. 

Ovarian cancer is easier to treat when it is diagnosed quickly. 

Tests

The tests for ovarian cancer are a CA-125 blood test and transvaginal ultrasound.

Remember, cervical screening only detects cervical cancer.

Ovarian cancer can be misdiagnosed

People with ovarian cancer can have their symptoms initially put down to other causes. Common misdiagnoses include irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, urinary tract infections, menopause, gastritis and even depression, stress or needing to lose weight.

If there is any doubt about why you are having symptoms, your GP should test for ovarian cancer to exclude it as a cause.

Any woman, any age

Any woman or person assigned female at birth can get ovarian cancer. While ovarian cancer is more common in older people, younger people get it too.

Getting a second opinion

If your concerns have not been adequately addressed by your GP or you feel like you're not being listened to, get a second opinion (or even a third or fourth if you need to!).

You know your body best and you need to advocate for your own health.

Preparing for your doctor’s appointment

Your GP will ask questions to better understand your symptoms and any additional risk factors.

You should tell you doctor:

It can help to write these answers down in advance and take them to your appointment. 

Overhead view of a person writing a letter on a typewriter

Learn more about tests for ovarian cancer

Note: this content has been reviewed by a gynaecological cancer specialist in New Zealand. Information is provided for general use and should not be a substitute for professional medical advice.

Last reviewed: 16 January 2024