Q: Are there any early symptoms of ovarian cancer?
A: The symptoms in the early stages, if there are any, tend to be nonspecific—that is, they can be caused by many health problems. That, plus the lack of a standard screening test, makes early detection difficult.
Still, in a number of studies in recent years, a handful of symptoms stood out in women with ovarian cancer. The most common are bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and a frequent or urgent need to urinate.
Based on these studies, three professional organizations—the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists and the American Cancer Society—recommend that if a woman develops any of the above symptoms daily or almost daily and the symptoms persist for more than two or three weeks, she should see a doctor, preferably a gynecologist.
Since these symptoms can be caused by any number of ailments, in the great majority of cases the problem won’t turn out to be ovarian cancer. But the symptoms should be evaluated. If cancer is a possibility, various tests, including a painless imaging test called transvaginal ultrasound (performed with a thin instrument placed in the vagina), may be recommended.