Solid or fluid-filled sacs, most ovarian cysts occur as a result of your menstrual cycle. Each month, your ovaries release one egg inside a tiny sac called a follicle. When the egg is ready, the follicle opens to release it. If the sac fails to open, a follicle cyst results, producing no symptoms. It often disappears in one to three months.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?
Typically you'll have ovarian cysts and not notice them at all. Sometimes, however, an ovarian cyst produces symptoms — pain, pressure or abnormal bleeding. These issues often resolve on their own and don't require intervention.
These issues often resolve on their own and don't require intervention.
However, if the cyst grows and becomes abnormal or develops into an ovarian tumor, you may notice:
- Pelvic pain: An ache in one side of the lower abdomen
- Pressure: A feeling of fullness or heaviness in your abdomen
- Abnormal bleeding not associated with menstruation
How are ovarian cysts diagnosed?
If the cyst is causing symptoms, your HonorHealth gynecologist may order an ultrasound, MRI or CT scan to get a closer look at:
- The size of the cyst
- The cyst's location
- Whether the cyst appears to be filled with fluid or is primarily solid
How are ovarian cysts treated?
In most cases, an ovarian cyst will resolve on its own, so observation is typically the recommended course of action. In rare cases, the cyst could rupture.
If a cyst doesn't go away or gets bigger, typically five centimeters or greater, you might have:
- Sudden, severe pain in your lower abdomen
- Dizziness, weakness, feeling faint
- Fast breathing
This means the cyst is causing the ovary to twist.
If the cyst ruptures or causes the ovary to twist, it could become an emergency, and minimally invasive surgery may be necessary.
The goal of surgery is to remove the cyst without rupturing it. In some cases, the surgeon needs to remove the ovary, but every effort is typically made to maintain the hormonal functions regulated by the ovary.
If you continue to develop abnormal ovarian cysts, your gynecologist may prescribe birth control to shut down ovulation, at least for a while during the time you're not hoping to conceive.
Could a cyst be cancerous?
If you have a family history of ovarian, fallopian tube or breast cancer, your physician may want to keep a more watchful eye on any cysts that are causing symptoms. It's also important to let your gynecologist know about your family history. Genetic counseling may be an option to evaluate your risk for developing cancer.
Ovarian cysts in women after menopause are more likely to be cancerous than those in younger women.