Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop in or on the ovary. Ovarian cysts occur commonly in women of all ages. Some women with ovarian cysts have pain or pelvic pressure, while others have no symptoms. Irregular menstrual periods or abnormal vaginal bleeding are not usually related to an ovarian cyst.
Most ovarian cysts do not require surgical removal and are not caused by cancer.
About Ovarian Cysts
There are many different types of cysts but in general, they may be classified as:
Simple or Complex
Benign or Malignant (Cancerous)
Causes of Ovarian Cysts
For premenopausal women, there are several common causes of cysts.
Functional cysts usually resolve without treatment. The formation of these cysts will depend on factors such as the stage of the menstrual cycle and whether or not ovulation has occurred.
Dermoid cysts arise from what are called ‘totipotential germ cells’ and as a result may contain a diversity of tissues such as hair, teeth, bone/cartilage, sebaceous glands and thyroid tissue.
Women with PCOS may have many small cysts. These cysts do not need to be removed or treated with medication, but women with PCOS may have other symptoms requiring treatment.
Women with endometriosis can develop a type of ovarian cyst called an endometrioma, or “chocolate cyst.” These cysts may cause pain and are associated with subfertility.
Cystadenoma are common, benign tumours containing clear or mucous fluid. They arise from the surface epithelium of the ovary. They are often asymptomatic but may become large and cause significant pressure symptoms in the abdomen and pelvis.
Severe pelvic infections may spread to involve the ovaries and fallopian tubes. As a result, pus-filled cysts form close to the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes.
In premenopausal women, although ovarian cancer may occur, the vast majority of ovarian masses and cysts are benign.
Ovarian cysts are common in postmenopausal women. The greater use of ultrasound and imaging techniques mean that an increasing proportion of these cysts will be found incidentally.
The vast majority of these identified cysts are benign. However, in postmenopausal women, new growths on or around the ovary are somewhat more likely to be caused by cancer than in premenopausal women.
Ovarian Cysts Diagnosis and Treatment
Ovarian cysts may be either symptomatic or asymptomatic. They can sometimes be detected during a pelvic examination. However, most are diagnosed by imaging and blood tests.
Ovarian cysts do not always require treatment and may resolve on their own. Decisions will be made based upon the results. More information can be found here.
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