An ovarian cyst is an abnormal, fluid-filled swelling in an ovary. Ovarian cysts are common and, in the majority of cases, noncancerous; however, the likelihood of a cyst being cancerous increases with age. In some cases, both of the ovaries have multiple cysts due to a hormonal disorder.
The most common type, a follicular cyst, is one in which the egg-producing follicle enlarges and fills with fluid. Cysts may also occur in the corpus luteum, a mass of tissue that forms from the follicle after ovulation. Other types of cysts include dermoid cysts and mucous or serous cystadenomas, which can become very large. In some cases, an ovarian cyst may be due to ovarian cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women.
Ovarian cysts often produce no symptoms, but some may cause abdominal swelling or discomfort, pain on intercourse, or irregularities of menstruation including amenorrhoea, menorrhagia, and dysmenorrhoea. Severe abdominal pain, nausea, and fever may develop if twisting or rupture of a cyst occurs. Surgery is required to treat these conditions.
Diagnosis and treatment
An ovarian cyst may be discovered during the course of a routine pelvic examination and its position and size confirmed by ultrasound scanning. In many cases, simple ovarian cysts (thinwalled or fluid-filled cysts) disappear without treatment. Complex cysts (such as dermoid cysts) usually require surgical removal. In some cases, aspiration (withdrawal by suction) of fluid under the guidance of ultrasound, or during laparoscopy, may be possible. If an ovarian cyst is particularly large, the ovary may need to be removed by surgery.
- Ovarian cysts in detail - non-technical
- Ovarian cyst pain
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome - non-technical
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome in detail - technical
- Ovarian disorders in detail - technical (with section on PCOS)
- The pathology of ovarian cysts and tumours - technical article
- Ovarian cancer
- Watchful waiting of ovarian cysts