Ovarian cysts are fluid filled sacs. Though most ovarian cysts are non-cancerous, some are cancerous, or may become cancerous over time. Some ovarian cysts may cause issues including abdominal swelling, pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, irregular and/or heavy periods. Treatment depends on symptoms, size (as these cysts can vary in size) and nature of the cyst. Further observation, medication or surgery may be required.
Ovarian cyst – most of time – don’t cause symptoms and go away on their own. However, a large cyst can cause:
- Pelvic pain — a dull or sharp ache in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst
- Fullness or heaviness in your abdomen
- When to see a doctor
- Seek immediate medical attention if you have:
- Sudden, severe abdominal or pelvic pain
- Pain with fever or vomiting
If you have these signs and symptoms or those of shock — cold, clammy skin; rapid breathing; and lightheadedness or weakness — see a doctor right away.
The most common causes of ovarian cysts include:
- Hormonal problems. Functional cysts usually go away on their own without treatment. They may be caused by hormonal problems or by drugs used to help you ovulate.
- Women with endometriosis can develop a type of ovarian cyst called an endometrioma. The endometriosis tissue may attach to the ovary and form a growth. These cysts can be painful during sex and during your period.
- An ovarian cyst normally develops in early pregnancy to help support the pregnancy until the placenta forms. Sometimes, the cyst stays on the ovary until later in the pregnancy and may need to be removed.
- Severe pelvic infections. Infections can spread to the ovaries and fallopian tubes and cause cysts to form.
Yes, some ovarian cysts can become cancerous. But most ovarian cysts are not cancerous.
The risk for ovarian cancer increases as you get older. Women who are past menopause with ovarian cysts have a higher risk for ovarian cancer. Talk to our specialist about your risk for ovarian cancer.
Screening for ovarian cancer is not recommended for most women. This is because testing can lead to “false positives.” A false positive is a test result that says a woman has ovarian cancer when she does not.
The most common types of ovarian cysts (called functional cysts) form during the menstrual cycle. They are usually benign (not cancerous).
The two most common types of cysts are:
- Follicle cysts: In a normal menstrual cycle, an ovary releases an egg each month. The egg grows inside a tiny sac called a follicle. When the egg matures, the follicle breaks open to release the egg. Follicle cysts form when the follicle doesn’t break open to release the egg. This causes the follicle to continue growing into a cyst. Follicle cysts often have no symptoms and go away in one to three months.
- Corpus luteum cysts: Once the follicle breaks open and releases the egg, the empty follicle sac shrinks into a mass of cells called corpus luteum. Corpus luteum makes hormones to prepare for the next egg for the next menstrual cycle. Corpus luteum cysts form if the sac doesn’t shrink. Instead, the sac reseals itself after the egg is released, and then fluid builds up inside. Most corpus luteum cysts go away after a few weeks. But, they can grow to almost four inches wide. They also may bleed or twist the ovary and cause pain. Some medicines used to cause ovulation can raise the risk of getting these cysts.
Other types of benign ovarian cysts are less common:
- Endometriomas are caused by endometriosis. Endometriosis happens when the lining of the uterus (womb) grows outside of the uterus.
- Dermoids come from cells present from birth and do not usually cause symptoms.
- Cystadenomas are filled with watery fluid and can sometimes grow large.
- In some women, the ovaries make many small cysts. This is called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS can cause problems with the ovaries and with getting pregnant.
- Malignant (cancerous) cysts are rare. They are more common in older women. Cancerous cysts are ovarian cancer. For this reason, ovarian cysts should be checked by our specialist. Most ovarian cysts are not cancerous.
Compared to conventional open surgery, the benefits of laparoscopic surgery include no or shorter hospital stays, minimal post-op discomfort, reduced analgesia, faster return to normal activities and aesthetically pleasing scars.