An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on or around an ovary. Cysts are benign (non-cancerous) and very common; in fact, most women will develop one or more cysts during her childbearing years, and in most cases, these cysts will resolve on their own after one or two menstrual cycles and cause few or, more commonly, no symptoms. Some cysts, however, can grow large or persist, causing pain or problems with fertility. Very large cysts can cause the ovary to twist or rotate, resulting in a serious medical condition.
Some cysts develop as a “side effect” or normal menstrual activity. These cysts are called “functional cysts,” and they form when the normal release of an egg from an ovary is disrupted. Some cysts may contain tissue formed during egg development and maturation. Endometrioma cysts develop in women with endometriosis, a condition that causes uterine lining tissue to form outside the uterus. If these cysts grow very large, they can result in twisting and torsion of the ovary. Ultrasound and other examinations can be used to identify the type of cysts and its size to decide if and how a cyst should be removed. Cysts that are not removed may be monitored to see if they resolve on their own, if they remain stable or if they begin to grow larger.
Most functional cysts cause no symptoms at all, occurring and resolving on their own. But sometimes, large functional cysts or other types of cysts can be symptomatic, causing issues like:
Asymptomatic cysts usually require no treatment; very large cysts that cause no symptoms may be monitored to keep an eye on their development. Cysts that are causing symptoms may be treated with hormone medication to control their growth or with minimally-invasive surgery or robot-assisted surgery to remove the cysts.