Conditions & Treatments
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on a woman's ovary. They are very common and do not usually cause any symptoms.
In most cases, they are harmless and usually disappear without the need for treatment. However, if the cyst is large or causing symptoms it may need to be surgically removed.
An ovarian cyst will usually only cause symptoms if it ruptures (splits), is very large, or if it blocks the blood supply to the ovaries. If this is the case, you may have the following symptoms:
- pelvic pain
- difficulty emptying your bowels
- a frequent need to urinate
- a change to your periods, heavy, lighter or irregular
- indigestion or a feeling of fullness and bloating
Types of ovarian cyst
There are a number of different types of ovarian cyst. The two main types are:
- functional ovarian cysts - they develop as part of the menstrual cycle and are harmless and short-lived. These are the most common type
- pathological ovarian cysts - they occur as a result of abnormal cell growth (most pathological ovarian cysts are not cancerous) and are much less common
Diagnosing ovarian cysts
As most ovarian cysts do not cause symptoms, they often go undiagnosed. Or they are diagnosed by chance - for example, during a pelvic examination or ultrasound scan for an unrelated reason.
Treating ovarian cysts
Whether an ovarian cyst needs to be treated will depend on:
- its size and appearance
- whether you have any symptoms
- whether you have had the menopause (post-menopausal women have a slightly higher risk of developing ovarian cancer)
In most cases, the cyst often disappears after a few weeks. A follow-up ultrasound scan may be used to confirm this.
Due to the slightly increased risk of post-menopausal women developing ovarian cancer, regular ultrasound scans and blood tests are usually recommended until the cyst disappears.
Large cysts, or those that cause symptoms, may need to be surgically removed. This is called an ovarian cystectomy and is usually carried out by keyhole surgery.