Risk Factors and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Risk Factors

Certain factors may increase the chance of developing ovarian cancer, though these factors do not directly cause cancer. Some people with many risk factors never develop ovarian cancer, while others with no risk factors do develop ovarian cancer. Although there are some risk factors you can’t change, such as your age or family history, there are some things you can do to help lower your risk, such as maintaining a healthy weight.

Risk factors include:

  • Age (most ovarian cancers occur after menopause)
  • Obesity
  • A family history of ovarian cancer
  • Having your first child after age 35 or never having been pregnant at all
  • Using estrogen replacement therapy after menopause
  • Having a genetic mutation in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • Having certain genetic syndromes, including Lynch syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome or MUTYH-associated polyposis
  • Having endometriosis

Additionally, women who have used oral contraceptives or had a tubal ligation may have a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

Learn more about risk factors. You can also use our Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment to learn about your specific risk.


Some patients with ovarian cancer might not have symptoms until the cancer has spread, but others can have symptoms in the early stages of the disease.

Symptoms that may be linked with ovarian cancer include:

  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding
  • Feeling of bloating or fullness in the abdominal area
  • Pain in the pelvic or abdominal area
  • Feeling full quickly when eating
  • Having to urinate more often than usual

Speak with your doctor if you have any new or changing symptoms. These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, many of which are not cancer. Your doctor may check for those other possible conditions as well as for ovarian cancer.

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