Ovarian Cancer Symptoms Consensus Statement

Historically ovarian cancer was called the “silent killer” because symptoms were not thought to
develop until the chance of cure was poor. 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. (1,2)

These symptoms include:

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

Women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from
normal for their bodies. The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the
diagnosis of ovarian cancer. (3) Several studies show that even early stage ovarian cancer can
produce these symptoms. (2-6)

Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their
doctor, preferably a gynecologist. Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the
earliest possible stage of the disease. Early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved
prognosis.

Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer. (2-5) These
symptoms include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and
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. (1)

References
1. Goff BA, Mandel LS, Melancon CH, Muntz HG. Frequency of symptoms of ovarian cancer
in women presenting to primary care. JAMA 2004;291:2705-12. Level II-2

2. Olson SH, Mignone L, Nakaraseive C,, Caputo TA, Barakat RR, Harlap S. Symptoms of
ovarian cancer. Obstet Gynecol 2001;98:212-7. Level II-2

3. Goff BA, Mandel L, Muntz HG, Melancon CH. Ovarian carcinoma diagnosis: results of a
national ovarian cancer survey. Cancer 2000;89:2068-75. Level III

4. Vine MF, Ness RB, Calingaert B, Schildkraut JM, Berchuck A. Types and duration of
symptoms prior to diagnosis of invasive or borderline ovarian tumor. Gynecol Oncol
2001;83:466-71. Level III

5. Yawn BP, Barrette, BA, Wollan, PC. Ovarian cancer: the neglected diagnosis. Mayo Clin Proc
2004;79:1277-1282. Level III

6. Goff BA, Mandel L, Drescher CW, Urban N, Gough S, Schurman K, Patras J. Mahony BS,
Anderson M. Development of an ovarian cancer symptom index. Cancer 2007;109:221-7.
Level II-2

Originating Organizations Date
Gynecologic Cancer Foundation January 23, 2007
Society of Gynecologic Oncologists February 15, 2007
American Cancer Society April 30, 2007
Endorsing Organizations Date
CancerCare May 29, 2007
Conversations: The International Newsletter For Those Fighting Ovarian Cancer May 29, 2007
EyesOnThePrize.org June 1, 2007
FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered May 29, 2007
Gilda’s Club Worldwide May 29, 2007
Gynecologic Oncology Group May 29, 2007
In My Sister’s Care June 5, 2007
International Gynecologic Cancer Society May 30, 2007
Lynne Cohen Foundation for Ovarian Cancer Research June 4, 2007
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship June 5, 2007
National Cervical Cancer Coalition May 30, 2007
National Ovarian Cancer Coalition May 31, 2007
Ovarian Cancer Canada June 4, 3007
Ovarian Cancer National Alliance May 29, 2007
Ovarian Cancer Research Fund May 29, 2007
SHARE: Self-help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer June 5, 2007
Society of Gynecologic Nurse Oncologists May 29, 2007
Additional Endorsing Organizations Date
Alliance for Women’s Cancer Awareness July 3, 2007
Cancer Awareness Team, Akron, Ohio July 20, 2007
Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research June 18, 2007
Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance June 20, 2007
Oasis of Southern California June 20, 2007
Ovar’Coming Together June 20, 2007
Ovarian and Breast Cancer Alliance of Washington June 20, 2007
Ovarian Awareness of Kentucky June 20, 2007
Ovarian Cancer Alliance of FL June 22, 2007
Ovarian Cancer Alliance of FL – Gulf Coast June 21, 2007
Ovarian Cancer Alliance of FL/Space Coast June 21, 2007
Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and SW Washington June 25, 2007
Ovarian Cancer Orange County Alliance June 28, 2007
R.O.A.R! (Responsible Ovarian Awareness Required) June 22, 2007
R.O.C.C.S. Research for Ovarian Cancer and Continued Survival June 20, 2007
Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation, Inc June 20, 2007
St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness June 22, 2007
The Chicago Ovarian Cancer Alliance June 25, 2007
The Ovarian and Gynecologic Cancer Coalition/Rhonda’s Club June 25, 2007
Treasure Coast Ovarian Cancer Alliance June 24, 2007
Tri-State Ovarian Cancer Alliance June 20, 2007

Spotlight

Hear from Dr. Anil Sood, the Foundation’s Research Chairman, and Carol Brown, 2014 SGO Program Chair, about research of interest to women and the public presented at the 2014 SGO Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer. Watch the video

Awareness

A new SGO Clinical Practice Statement states women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian, tubal, and peritoneal cancers should be considered for genetic counseling and testing, even in the absence of a family history.

Education

The next Gynecologic Cancer Survivors Course Friday, May 2, 2014 in Long Island, NY. For more information on courses, click here.