Ovarian Cancer Ovarian Cancer
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Among women in the United States, ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer and the fifth leading cause of cancer death.

Two recent studies have shed light on the early symptoms of ovarian cancer.

“Symptoms, Diagnoses, and Time to Key Diagnostic Procedures among Older US Women with Ovarian Cancer”1

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Research Triangle Institute examined the types of symptoms and medical tests reported in Medicare claims in the 12 months before women had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Over 81% of the 3,250 women 65 years of age and older with ovarian cancer had at least one target sign or symptom before diagnosis.

Women with digestive symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea were more likely to be diagnosed with later-stage ovarian cancer. Women with gynecologic symptoms such as abnormal bleeding and genital organ pain were more likely to be diagnosed with earlier disease.

Women with gynecologic symptoms got diagnostic imaging tests and surgical evaluations for ovarian cancer faster than women with other symptoms.

Doctors need to be aware that unexplained digestive symptoms in women may be indicators for ovarian cancer.

“Temporal Patterns of Conditions and Symptoms Potentially Associated with Ovarian Cancer”2

In the second study, researchers at CDC and Thomson Healthcare examined patterns of prediagnostic ovarian cancer symptoms and conditions among women with and without ovarian cancer.

They found that certain symptoms were common in women with ovarian cancer:

• Abdominal symptoms

• Female genital symptoms

• Gastrointestinal symptoms

• Urinary tract disorders

• Menopausal disorders

The differences in symptoms and conditions between women with and without ovarian cancer were most pronounced in the two to three months prior to diagnosis. The results of these studies are important because they identify some of the symptoms that may help doctors in diagnosing ovarian cancer