A woman with ovarian cancer may be diagnosed with another condition before finally learning she has cancer. 

Common misdiagnoses include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Stress
  • Depression


Recent studies have shown that women with ovarian cancer are more likely than are other women to consistently experience the following symptoms:
  • Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating.
  • Urinary urgency.
  • Pelvic discomfort or pain.

Identifying signs of ovarian cancer

The key seems to be persistent or worsening signs and symptoms. With most digestive disorders, symptoms tend to come and go, or they occur in certain situations or after eating certain foods. With ovarian cancer, there's typically little fluctuation — symptoms are constant and gradually worsen.

See your primary care doctor or gynecologist if:
  • Swelling, bloating, pressure or pain in your abdomen or pelvis lasts for more than a few weeks and your symptoms are constant and getting worse.
  • You have a history of ovarian cancer or a strong history of breast cancer in your family, see a doctor trained to detect and care for ovarian cancer patients so that you can talk about screening, genetic testing and treatment options while you are disease-free.
  • You've already seen a doctor, but you are not getting relief from the treatment, schedule a follow-up visit with your doctor or get a second opinion. Make sure that a pelvic exam is a part of your evaluation.

If your doctor suspects you have ovarian cancer, he or she may refer you to an oncologist for further, definitive diagnosis.