Symptoms and Risk Factors of Ovarian Cancer

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognize. In fact, the disease usually doesn’t cause any symptoms in its early stages. That’s why it’s important to be aware of your risk factors and to consult your physician if something doesn’t seem right.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer symptoms include the following:

  • Pain in the pelvis or abdomen
  • Feeling bloated
  • Urinating frequently
  • Feeling full quickly when eating
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Losing or gaining weight
  • Feeling very tired
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding that occurs after menopause or does not seem related to a period

Experiencing these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you have ovarian cancer. Many other benign conditions can cause abdominal discomfort or gastrointestinal problems. However, it’s always good to make an appointment with your physician if you are concerned or if symptoms persist. Mention that you are worried about ovarian cancer and ask that they conduct a thorough evaluation.

Vaginal bleeding after menopause, in particular, is never normal. If you are experiencing this, make an appointment with your OB-GYN as soon as possible.

Risk factors for ovarian cancer

There are two primary risk factors for ovarian cancer: older age and family history.

Many cancers – not just ovarian cancer – are more likely to develop in older adults. As our bodies age, our cells become more susceptible to mutations that can lead to uncontrolled, malignant growth. Consequently, the majority of ovarian cancers occur in women who are over the age of 55.

Having a family history of ovarian cancer is another significant risk factor for the disease. You are at higher risk of ovarian cancer if your mother, sister, daughter or grandmother was also diagnosed with it. The risk rises according to the number of relatives affected and these relatives can be on either your maternal or paternal side of the family.

Inherited mutations

Sometimes, when ovarian cancer runs in a family, it is caused by inherited mutations or genetic syndromes. BRCA mutations, in particular, are known to cause ovarian cancer as well as breast cancer.

Similarly, some ovarian cancers are caused by Lynch syndrome, an inherited condition that predisposes patients to developing cancer, especially endometrial and colon cancers.

If you have multiple relatives with ovarian cancer, or other cancers such as breast or colon cancer, a genetic mutation may be the cause.

Learn more about how Siteman helps patients and families coping with inherited genetic mutations.

What’s my risk?

The best way to evaluate your risk of ovarian cancer is to have a conversation with your OB-GYN. However, there are also online tools you can use to quickly assess your risk and start a conversation with your physician later on.

Your Disease Risk is an effective tool that was developed by physicians and scientists right here at Siteman. It can provide you with an estimation of your risk, as well as targeted suggestions to help you manage it.