Cervical or Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

The National Cancer Institute says that in 2014, doctors diagnosed 12,360 women with cervical cancer and 21,980 women with ovarian cancer. Cervical cancer is the third leading type of cancer in women, while ovarian cancer is the fifth leading type of cancer in women. Both reproductive cancers cause changes to patients' menstrual cycles. However, patients with cervical cancer may not have symptoms until the cancer becomes more advanced.

Cervical cancer is the third leading type of cancer in women, and ovarian cancer is the fifth. Credit: Jannoon028/iStock/Getty Images

Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

Since these cancers affect either the cervix or ovaries, patients can experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. With ovarian cancer, patients can have abnormal menstrual cycles, such as vaginal bleeding between periods. Patients with cervical cancer can also have abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, as well as after intercourse. Patients who have reached menopause may have postmenopausal vaginal bleeding. Women with cervical cancer may have heavier or longer periods. Heavy vaginal bleeding is a sign of advanced cervical cancer.


Patients with either cervical or ovarian cancer can have pain in various parts of the body. In advanced cervical cancer, patients can have pain in the legs, pelvis or back. With ovarian cancer, patients can have pelvic pain, or a sense of pelvic heaviness. Back pain can also occur, which worsens as the disease progresses. Ovarian cancer patients may have abdominal pain and discomfort.


Swelling and bloating may result from either ovarian or cervical cancer. For example, patients with ovarian cancer may become bloated, which can occur with increased gas. Patients may also have a swollen stomach or abdomen. In advanced cervical cancer, patients can have swelling in one leg.

Changes in Appetite and Weight

Patients with cervical or ovarian cancer may have changes in appetite, which can affect their weight. For example, both cervical and ovarian cancer patients can have a loss of appetite, which can lead to weight loss. However, some ovarian cancer patients may gain weight. Ovarian cancer can also cause patients to feel full quickly after eating or they may have problems eating. The appetite and weight changes can occur along with nausea and vomiting.

Bowel and Bladder Problems

Ovarian and cervical cancer can cause bowel and bladder problems for patients. For example, ovarian cancer patients can experience constipation. Patients may also have increased need to urinate. In advanced cervical cancer, patients can have urine or feces leak from their vaginas.

Other Symptoms

Patients with cervical cancer can have continuous vaginal discharge, which can appear bloody, pale, brown, watery or pink, and the discharge may smell foul. In advanced cervical cancer, patients can experience fatigue and may have bone fractures. With ovarian cancer, patients may have excessive hair growth.

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