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Just remember that all of you are different and will be listening to different doctors and recovering patients, this research is a broad look at cysts and one size does not fir all.

Ovarian cysts are sacs filled with fluid or a semisolid material that develop on or within the ovary.

The most common type of ovarian cyst is called a functional cyst, which often forms during the normal menstrual cycle. Each month, a woman's ovaries grow tiny cysts that hold the eggs. When an egg is mature, the sac breaks open to release the egg, so it can travel through the fallopian tube for fertilization. Then the sac dissolves.

In one type of functional cyst, called a follicular cyst, the sac does not break open to release the egg and may continue to grow. This type of cyst usually disappears within 1 to 3 months.

A corpus luteum cyst, another type of functional cyst, forms if the sac does not dissolve. Instead, the sac seals off after the egg is released. Fluid then builds up inside of it. This type of cyst usually goes away on its own after a few weeks. However, it can grow to almost 4 inches and may bleed or twist the ovary and cause pain. Clomid or Serophene, which are drugs used to induce ovulation, can raise the risk of developing this type of cyst. These cysts are almost never associated with cancer.

Other types of ovarian cysts include the following:

Endometriomas: These cysts develop in women who have endometriosis, when tissue from the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. The tissue may attach to the ovary and form a growth. These cysts can be painful during sexual intercourse and during menstruation.

Cystadenomas: These cysts develop from cells on the outer surface of the ovary. They are often filled with a watery fluid or thick, sticky gel. They can become large and cause pain.

Dermoid cysts: The cells in the ovary are able to make hair, teeth, and other growing tissues that become part of a forming ovarian cyst. These cysts can become large and cause pain.

Polycystic ovaries: This condition occurs when the eggs mature within the follicles, or sacs, but the sac does not break open to release the egg. The cycle repeats, follicles continue to grow inside the ovary, and cysts form.


Functional ovarian cysts usually occur during the childbearing years. Most often, cysts in women of this age group are not cancerous. Women who are postmenopausal and develop ovarian cysts have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.


Many women with ovarian cysts do not display any symptoms. However, a cyst will sometimes cause the following:

  • pressure, bloating, fullness, or pain in the abdomen;
  • dull ache in the lower back and thighs;
  • problems passing urine completely or urinary urgency;
  • pain during sexual intercourse;
  • weight gain;
  • painful menstrual periods and abnormal bleeding;
  • nausea or vomiting; and
  • breast tenderness.
  • Diagnosis

Because ovarian cysts may not cause symptoms, they are usually found during a routine pelvic examination. During this examination, a physician may be able to feel the swelling of the cyst on an ovary.

Once a cyst is found, ultrasonography is indicated to visualize the shape of the cyst, its size and location, and whether it is fluid-filled, solid, or mixed. A pregnancy test is also indicated. Hormone levels (such as luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, estradiol, and testosterone) may also be assessed.

To determine whether a cyst might be cancerous, CA-125 levels should be measured. The amount of this protein is higher if a woman has ovarian cancer. However, some ovarian cancers do not produce enough CA-125 to be detected by the test. In addition, other noncancerous diseases such as uterine fibroids and endometriosis can increase the levels of CA-125.

These noncancerous causes of increased CA-125 are more common in women younger than 35 years of age, whereas ovarian cancer is very uncommon in this age group. For this reason, the CA-125 test is recommended mostly for women over the age of 35 years, who are at high risk for the disease and have a cyst that is partially solid.


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Start Date
Apr 29, 2008
by Jan214
Last Revision
Mar 27, 2009
by TrudieC