Women's Health

What Every Woman Should Know About Ovarian Cysts

It’s a very common diagnosis with a scary-sounding name: ovarian cysts. Every ovulating woman has them, and most cause no symptoms or problems.

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that are formed quite frequently. Each cyst represents a follicle of a potentially maturing egg that will be released by a properly functioning ovary with each menstrual cycle.

Risks associated with abnormal ovarian cysts

The ovary produces cysts each month in response to hormones – a normal part of an ovulating woman’s monthly cycle. It’s when there are abnormalities to this monthly process that problems can occur.

Cysts can be dangerous; if they are painful, it can be an indication that the ovary is starting to twist, bleed or become enlarged. They can contribute to difficulty getting pregnant. In addition, cysts that occur with a positive pregnancy test are concerning for an ectopic pregnancy and need emergent evaluation.

When to see your doctor

When it comes to ovarian cysts, there are some symptoms you shouldn’t ignore. It’s likely time to see your OB/GYN if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pelvic fullness and bloating
  • Dull pain
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Sharp, stabbing pelvic pain that typically gets worse with movement
  • Irregular menstrual cycles

Evaluation and treatment

Ultrasound is the best way to evaluate cysts, and this can be done abdominally or vaginally. CT scans and MRIs may also be used. Depending on the size and characteristics of the cyst, along with the patient’s symptoms, repeat imaging may be needed in six to 12 weeks. Upon further evaluation, your provider may drain or remove the cyst, remove the whole ovary, or suppress ovulation with hormones.

In addition to normal monthly cysts, there are many other types that can develop frequently. While benign types are more common, very rare forms of ovarian cysts can be malignant.

It’s important to know that most cysts are not and will never become cancerous. The malignant ones, however, need to be treated surgically.

While there is no sure way to prevent all ovarian cysts, hormonal birth control may help. It stops the development of monthly follicular cysts and reduces the likelihood that other benign cysts will form.

If you have questions about symptoms you are experiencing, talk to your Methodist Physicians Clinic OB/GYN about treatment options.

More information:

Dr. Abigail Delaney, a reproductive health specialist at Methodist Women's Hospital gives more information about the condition known as "Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in this video:


About the Author

Dr. Emily Lange says the thrill of delivering babies never gets old, and neither does helping women with their most intimate care needs. 

"So many women relate their health care needs to their family and community needs," said Dr. Lange, "and I enjoy having that conversation with them as well as providing their medical care."

You can begin your conversation with Dr. Lange today at Methodist Physicians Clinic located within Methodist Jennie Edmundson Medical Plaza.

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