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What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be similar to other common conditions. This can make it difficult to diagnose early. Symptoms are more likely to develop as the cancer grows and may include:

  • pressure, pain or discomfort in the abdomen or pelvis
  • a swollen or bloated abdomen
  • changes in appetite (e.g. not feeling like eating, feeling full quickly)
  • changes in toilet habits (e.g. constipation, diarrhoea, passing urine more often, increased wind)
  • indigestion and feeling sick (nausea)
  • feeling very tired
  • unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • changes to periods such as heavy or irregular bleeding, or vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • pain when having sex.

If you have any of these symptoms and they are new for you, are severe or continue for more than a few weeks, it is best to have a check-up. Keep a note of how often the symptoms occur and make an appointment to see your general practitioner (GP).

Ovarian Cancer Australia has produced a symptom diary for recording symptoms. You can also use it to help talk about your health concerns with your doctor.

Which health professionals will I see?

Your general practitioner (GP) will arrange the first tests to assess your symptoms. If these tests do not rule out cancer, you will usually be referred to a specialist called a gynaecological oncologist. The specialist will arrange further tests.

If ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the specialist will consider treatment options. Often these will be discussed with other health professionals at what is known as a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting. During and after treatment, you will see a range of health professionals who specialise in different aspects of your care.

GPassists you with treatment decisions and works in partnership with your specialists in providing ongoing care
gynaecological oncologistdiagnoses and performs surgery for cancers of the female reproductive system, e.g. ovarian, cervical, uterine, vulvar and vaginal cancers
gynaecological pathologistexamines tissue removed from the abdomen or ovaries under a microscope
medical oncologisttreats cancer with drug therapies such as chemotherapy and targeted therapy (systemic treatment)
radiation oncologisttreats cancer by prescribing and overseeing a course of radiation therapy
radiation therapistplans and delivers radiation therapy
radiologistreads and interprets diagnostic scans, such as x-rays and CT and PET scans
cancer care coordinatorcoordinates your care, liaises with other members of the MDT and supports you and your family throughout treatment; care may also be coordinated by a clinical nurse consultant (CNC) or clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
nurseadministers drugs and provides care, information and support throughout treatment
occupational therapistassists in adapting your living and working environment to help you resume usual activities after treatment
physiotherapisthelps with restoring movement and mobility, and preventing further injury
exercise physiologistprescribes exercise to help people with medical conditions improve their overall health, fitness, strength and energy levels
dietitianhelps with nutrition concerns and recommends changes to diet during treatment and recovery
social workerlinks you to support services and helps you with emotional, practical and financial issues
counsellorhelps you manage your emotional response to diagnosis and treatment
clinical psychologistuses evidence-based strategies to help you manage emotional conditions, usually in the long term
palliative care specialists and nurseswork closely with the GP and cancer specialists to help control symptoms and maintain quality of life
family cancer specialist, genetic counsellorprovide advice about genetic causes of ovarian cancer; arrange genetic tests if required and interpret the results for you and your family

Featured resources

Ovarian Cancer - Your guide to best cancer care

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Understanding Ovarian Cancer

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed April 2022 by the following expert content reviewers: Dr Nisha Jagasia, Gynaecological Oncologist, Mater Hospital Brisbane, QLD; Sue Hayes, Consumer; Bronwyn Jennings, Gynaecology Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Mater Health, QLD; Dr Andrew Lee, Radiation Oncologist, Canberra Region Cancer Centre and Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Tarek Meniawy, Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Caitriona Nienaber, Cancer Council WA; Jane Power, Consumer; A/Prof Sam Saidi, Senior Staff Specialist, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW.