The basics

Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries. It can be hard to recognise in the early stages, because the symptoms are often pretty vague and because some of them – like bloating and stomach pain – are easy to confuse with period symptoms. Knowing the signs of ovarian cancer is definitely a good idea, but remember that plenty of conditions less serious than cancer can also cause these symptoms.

Warning signs

Potential warning signs include pain around your pelvis and tummy that isn’t related to a period, and feeling persistently bloated at times when you haven’t got your period. You might also struggle to eat because you feel full quickly. If you do have these symptoms, it’s worth getting checked out – there’s no such thing as wasting your doctor’s time.

How's it diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine you internally to feel for any lumps or swellings in your ovaries or womb. If more tests are needed, you’ll then be referred to a specialist who might use a blood test, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI scan or internal examination to make a diagnosis. The blood test can show up high levels of a protein produced by some ovarian cancers, and the ultrasound and CT or MRI scan can help to identify lumps and swelling.

You can find out more about all of these techniques in our Getting diagnosed section.

How's it treated?

Surgery and chemotherapy are the main treatments for ovarian cancer. If your cancer is diagnosed early enough, you might only need to have surgery to remove the affected ovary and the connected fallopian tube. If you have more advanced cancer, you might need more extensive surgery, but your doctors will talk this through with you. And chemo can also be used before and after surgery to target cancerous cells and reduce the risk of cancer coming back.

Find out more about cancer treatments.