Ovarian Cysts Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

What are ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts are small, fluid-filled sacs that usually are not malignant. They may not cause any symptoms, or they may be quite painful. Sometimes, ovarian cysts appear in connection with the menstrual cycle, and they may go away on their own in a few months. When these cysts grow large, they may cause feelings of pressure or fullness.

Although most ovarian cysts are benign (not cancer), they must be taken very seriously.

A sonogram will show whether a cyst is fluid-filled or has solid matter in it. If it is solid, it may be related to endometriosis, or it may be cancerous.

What are the treatments for ovarian cysts?

If you have not yet gone through menopause, you may not need any treatment, unless the cyst is very big or causing pain. Sometimes, taking birth control pills will make the cyst smaller. Surgerymay be needed if the cyst is causing symptoms or is more than 2 inches across.

If surgery is needed, often the cyst can be removed without removing the ovary. Even if one ovary has to be removed, it is still possible to become pregnant as long as one ovary remains.

After menopause, the risk of ovarian cancer increases. Surgery to remove an ovarian cyst is usually recommended in this case. Your doctor will probably want to do a biopsy to see if cancer is present.

If you have gone through menopause and you have an ovarian cyst, talk with your doctor about what will be done during surgery.

Make sure you understand whether he or she plans to remove just the cyst, the cyst and the ovary, or to do a hysterectomy. Talk over the options with your doctor and make your own wishes known.

Treatment options include:

  • Watchful waiting.

  • Hormone therapy to reduce the size of the cyst.

  • Cystectomy to remove the cyst.

  • Oophorectomy to remove the affected ovary.

  • Hysterectomy. This usually is not necessary unless the cyst is cancerous.

Return to Common Uterine Conditions & Treatment Options

Reprinted from the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR)

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