“I’ve been having hip and leg pain for a while,” wrote one member of MyOvarianCancerTeam. “It turns out the pain wasn’t a side effect, but, rather, I need a hip replacement.”
If you experience pain in your hips while living with ovarian cancer, you may wonder whether cancer, cancer treatment, or other health issues are to blame. Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include pelvic and lower back pain, but not necessarily hip pain.
Here are some possible causes of hip pain that may or may not be associated with ovarian cancer, along with tips for when to seek treatment and how to manage discomfort.
If you’re living with ovarian cancer and you feel an unexpected pain sensation, it’s normal to worry that cancer may be growing or spreading. However, it’s important not to jump to conclusions about hip pain. The most likely areas for ovarian cancer to spread include the liver, spleen, intestines, brain, skin, lymph nodes, and the fluid around the lungs.
If ovarian cancer spreads to the bone (such as the pelvis or hip bones), pain is one of the most reported symptoms. But overall, researchers consider it extremely rare for ovarian cancer to spread to bone.
Members of MyOvarianCancerTeam have described how pain and cramping were early signs of ovarian cancer. However, pain isn’t always a clear indicator of the disease.
“I had lower back pain for two years. I tried physical therapy and a chiropractor. Then I started having menstrual cramps at 67 years old. I thought it was scar tissue from three cesarean sections. I had cancer in both ovaries, tubes, and my uterus,” shared one member. “I haven’t had a minute of back pain since my hysterectomy.”
It’s often said that hindsight is 20/20. If you remember having pain with your undiagnosed ovarian cancer, it’s understandable to worry when other sources of pain arise. Fortunately, ongoing monitoring by your health care team can prompt the early detection of any new problems.
Treatment for ovarian cancer may lead to side effects that increase your risk of hip pain. For example, several members of MyOvarianCancerTeam report experiencing osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones) and bone fractures. “I have osteoporosis from my cancer drugs, so I’ll have to have an IV once a year for 30 minutes to help with my bones,” one member explained.
Chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy are all potential contributors to osteoporosis later in life. Chemotherapy can also cause nerve damage, and immunotherapy can affect muscles and joints. It’s not always possible to predict or prevent these issues, but doing your best to stay active, eat well, and follow other healthy lifestyle habits before and after cancer can help. When deciding on treatments, your oncologist will weigh the benefits and risks to give you the best possible cancer care.
One MyOvarianCancerTeam member wrote, “Has anyone experienced post-chemo pain? It’s mainly in my bones and joints. I was told that arthritis can become worse with chemo. I decided to get back into tai chi, and it’s helped! I don’t have the stamina yet to do the complete hour, but I’m working on that. 😊”
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, some people also experience joint pain as an immediate or late side effect of cancer treatments. These therapies include:
Ironically, bisphosphonates — which are used to treat bone loss — and some pain medicines also can cause joint pain. Ask your doctor if any side effects of your treatment may be responsible for your hip pain.
People with ovarian cancer can experience hip pain for lots of reasons, many unrelated to their cancer, including:
Knowing your family history can help identify risk factors for these other health conditions.
“Having rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, those symptoms seemed to take a back seat to chemo. Now that I finished, those two are back with a vengeance, along with the neuropathy,” shared a MyOvarianCancerTeam member. “As with the cancer treatment, I take it one day at a time. Some are good, and some are bad.”
When cancer enters your life, other parts of your health may end up on the back burner. However, it’s important not to neglect conditions that cause pain or damage your body.
Sudden pain or pain that’s not being well managed should be discussed with your health care provider. Symptoms like hip pain can significantly affect your ability to stay active and enjoy a good quality of life. Don’t hesitate to ask if changing your treatment plan or adding therapies could help.
Your doctor may suggest pain management options, like over-the-counter pain relievers or heating pads. Sometimes a few sessions with a physical therapist can help you learn beneficial exercises. In addition, palliative care services like massage and acupuncture may improve your hip pain regardless of your stage of ovarian cancer.
Adjusting your lifestyle can improve some forms of hip pain. For instance, you can try changing your sleep position to avoid lying on the side that hurts and wearing more supportive shoes.
If your work requires standing for long periods or you’re doing exercises that make hip pain worse, you can make adjustments to reduce your symptoms. “You might think about trying water aerobics. It’s very easy on the joints,” suggested a MyOvarianCancerTeam member.
Your oncology provider can help you decide if you should get additional cancer screenings or other tests (like bone screenings, blood tests, and CT scans) to check for underlying issues that need medical attention. Ultimately, taking a proactive approach offers the best way to get the solutions you need.
MyOvarianCancerTeam is the social network for people with ovarian cancer and their loved ones. On MyOvarianCancerTeam, more than 6,400 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with ovarian cancer.
Have you experienced hip pain along with ovarian cancer? Were you able to pinpoint the cause? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.