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Ovary Pain

Is My Ovary Pain Caused By Cancer?


Updated July 01, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Ovary pain can be frightening, especially when it is persistent. Most women have experienced some degree of ovarian discomfort in their lifetime, mostly due to benign causes like ovulation or menstruation. When the pain becomes frequent and possible accompanied by other symptoms, it is natural to wonder if ovarian cancer may be the culprit for ovary pain. The truth in the matter is that it may be cancer, but more than likely it is not.

Ovary Pain and Ovarian Cancer: Is There a Connection?

It is true that women with ovarian cancer do experience abdominal pain, pressure, or discomfort. Experts recommend that women who experience pelvic pain daily for at least two to three weeks should consult their physician for further evaluation.

According to UpToDate (an electronic resource used by many patients and their doctors looking for in-depth medical information), there are many variables in ovarian cancer detection:

"During the early stages of ovarian cancer, symptoms are often vague and ill-defined. Symptoms may include pelvic or abdominal discomfort, bloating, difficulty eating or feeling full, increased abdominal size, or urinary symptoms (urgency and frequency).

"In some women, ovarian cancer is initially suspected when a mass or lump is felt during a routine pelvic examination. However, a mass is not always detectable in the early stages of ovarian cancer. Even when a mass is detected, it does not necessarily mean that the woman has ovarian cancer. A number of other non-cancerous conditions can cause masses."

You can see that while ovarian/pelvic pain can be a symptom of ovarian cancer, it can also be the symptom of several other, less serious conditions. This is why it is so important to see a doctor if you are experiencing persistent pain -- only a physician can determine the cause and appropriate course of action.

Causes of Ovary Pain

Many times "ovarian" pain isn't caused by anything related to the ovaries. Harmless conditions like constipation or gas can cause pain that only feels like it's coming from the ovaries. Other conditions related to ovarian pain include, but aren't limited to:

Ovarian Pain in Pregnancy

Severe ovarian cramping or pain during pregnancy is not normal, and emergency medical treatment may be necessary, as this is a symptom of an ectopic pregnancy. If you are experiencing moderate to severe ovarian pain and are pregnant, please seek medical attention immediately. (Learn more about ectopic pregnancy symptoms.)

What to Expect at the Doctor if You Have Ovary Pain

If you are experiencing pelvis pain, your doctor will first ask you several questions such as:
  • What side does your pelvic pain occur on?
  • How often does it occur?
  • Do any activities cause it or worsen it?
  • Are your bowel movements regular?
  • What are you doing to manage the pain?
  • How severe is the pain?
You doctor will likely also want to do a pelvic exam and may recommend that you have a pelvic ultrasound. These are standard exams that help doctors determine the cause of ovarian pain.

Want to learn more? See UpToDate's article "Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis and Staging" for additional in-depth medical information.


Lee-May, Chen. "Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis and Staging." UpToDate. Accessed: November 2010.

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