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What are the symptoms?

In its early stages, ovarian cancer usually has no symptoms. This means it is typically diagnosed when the cancer is more advanced and has spread to other organs.

Occasionally, symptoms of ovarian cancer do occur before the disease is diagnosed. These symptoms may include:

  • pressure, pain or discomfort in the abdomen or pelvis
  • a swollen or bloated abdomen
  • changes in appetite, such as not feeling like eating, or 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 in the pattern of periods, or vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • pain during sex.

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have cancer – they might be caused by another health condition.

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

Ovarian Cancer Australia has produced a symptom diary to help you record any symptoms and talk about your health concerns with your doctor. Visit  ovariancancer.net.au/signs-and-symptoms to download a PDF that you can print out.

Which health professionals will I see?

Your GP will probably arrange the first tests if you have symptoms. If these tests do not rule out cancer, you will usually be referred to a specialist called a gynaecological oncologist. The gynaecological oncologist will arrange further tests, perform any recommended surgery and consider treatment options. Often the treatment options 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, such as 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 including chemotherapy and targeted therapy
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
nurseadministers drugs and provides care, information and support throughout treatment
physiotherapist, occupational therapistassist with physical and practical problems, including restoring movement and mobility after treatment and recommending aids and equipment
exercise physiologistprescribes exercise to help people with medical conditions improve their overall health and fitness
dietitianrecommends an eating plan to follow while you are in treatment and recovery
social workerlinks you to support services and helps you with emotional, practical and financial issues
counsellor, clinical psychologisthelp you manage your emotional response to diagnosis and treatment
palliative care specialists and nurseswork closely with the GP and oncologist to help control pain and other symptoms and maintain quality of life
family cancer specialist, genetic counsellorprovide advice about genetic causes of ovarian cancer; arrange genetic test results if required and interpret the results for you and your family

This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed April 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Sam Saidi, Senior Staff Specialist, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Penny Blomfield, Gynaecological Oncologist, Hobart Women’s Specialists, and Chair, Australian Society of Gynaecologic Oncologists, TAS; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Sonja Kingston, Consumer; Clinical A/Prof Judy Kirk, Head, Familial Cancer Service, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, and Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Researcher, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Support Team, Ovarian Cancer Australia; Emily Stevens, Gynaecology Oncology Nurse Coordinator, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Dr Amy Vassallo, Fussell Family Foundation Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW; Merran Williams, Consumer.