Know the Signs, Symptoms, and Risk Factors of Ovarian Cancer


Historically ovarian cancer was called the “silent killer” because symptoms were not thought to develop until the cancer had spread. However, recent studies have shown this term is untrue and that the following symptoms are much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population. These symptoms include:

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

These symptoms are relatively common in women and are often associated with a number of different health problems, from irritable bowel syndrome to urinary tract infections.  Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer. These symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Indigestion
  • Back pain
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Constipation
  • 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. If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, please contact your doctor.


Like any cancer, why one woman gets ovarian cancer and another does not remains a mystery. However, women are at risk if they have any of the following:

  • Inherited gene mutations.
  • Family history of ovarian cancer.
  • A previous diagnosis of the breast, colon, rectum or uterus.
  • Increasing age
  • Never having been pregnant

The overwhelming majority of women who get ovarian cancer have no known risk factors. Early diagnosis and treatment is key.