An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled pocket in or on the ovary. These cysts are common. There are different types of cysts based on where they develop or what material is in the cyst.
There are a variety of reasons an ovarian cyst may develop depending on the exact type of cyst.
Functional cysts are the most common type of ovarian cyst. It is normal for cysts to develop as part of the ovulation cycle. However, functional cysts remain or grow. Types of functional cysts include:
Other, less common types of ovarian cysts include:
Some cysts can also be caused by pelvic infections that have spread to the ovaries.
Cysts are more common in women with regular, monthly menstrual cycles. However, women can still develop cysts after menopause. Other factors that may increase the risk of cysts include:
Most ovarian cysts do not cause symptoms and will go away on their own. Others may need care. Cysts that are large or leak fluid may cause:
The fallopian tube may become twisted because of the cyst or a cyst may rupture. This can cause severe pain, nausea, vomiting, or bleeding that will require medical care.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A pelvic exam will also be done. Cysts are often found during routine pelvic exams. The doctor can determine factors like size that will help decide if more testing is needed.
Further testing may not be needed or may be delayed to see if the cyst goes away on its own. If the cyst is large, is not going away, or is causing severe problems, then tests may include:
Many cysts will go away without treatment. For example:
If a cyst is found, it may simply be monitored for any changes. For cysts that are causing problems, treatment will depend on factors like age, menstrual status, type of cyst, and symptoms. Cysts that develop in women over 40 years of age have a higher risk of developing into cancer. These cysts will be closely monitored for changes, or may be removed as precaution.
Treatment options for ovarian cysts include:
Cysts that are large, growing, solid, or remain longer than 2-3 menstrual cycles may be removed. Removal may also be needed for cysts that are causing severe bleeding or pain.
When possible the cyst will be removed and the ovary will remain intact. Sometimes the ovary will need to be removed, called an oophrectomy. Ovaries provide hormones that stimulate menstruation. If both ovaries are removed, menopause will begin right away. Most surgeries for cysts can be done with laparoscopy. This surgery uses small incisions to reach the cysts to help decrease recovery time.
The fallopian tube may become twisted because of the cyst or the cyst may rupture. This may require emergency surgery.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Office on Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services
Canadian Cancer Society
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Adnexal mass. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T906835/Cyst-fluid-cytology. Updated May 10, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2017.
Ovarian cysts. Office on Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/ovarian-cysts. Updated April 28, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2017.
Benign ovarian masses. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/benign-gynecologic-lesions/benign-ovarian-masses. Updated March 2017. Accessed December 12, 2017.
Last reviewed December 2017 by Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.