An ovarian cyst is a swelling on the ovary. Normal (physiological) ovarian cysts develop in women with every cycle to produce a mature egg that is released at ovulation.
Because the cells in the ovary have the potential to produce new humans, they can produce all different types of tissue which can lead to many different types of cysts developing in the ovary. The most common types of cysts that require treatment are endometriomas, cystadenomas and fibromas. The vast majority of non-physiological ovarian cysts are benign but, in some cases, ovarian cancer may need to be excluded.
Ovarian cysts can cause symptoms such as abdominal or pelvic pain or pain on intercourse. Both normal and abnormal ovarian cysts can produce symptoms, usually in relation to a complication of the cyst, such as a rupture, haemorrhage or torsion which will cause pain
Ovarian cysts may be diagnosed with general examination performed by your GP or gynaecologist. Alternatively, the cyst may be seen on ultrasound, CT or MRI. Blood tests, such as tumour markers (substances produced by certain types of cysts), may be required to aid in the diagnosis.
Ovarian cysts may be managed by:
- Observation –As the majority of ovarian cysts are normal, many resolve by observation over a period of several weeks. The progress will normally be observed by ultrasound
- Surgery – Surgical intervention is required if there are significant symptoms such as pain or any suspicion of abnormality. In general, this surgery aims to remove the cyst and leave the normal part of the ovary behind. Occasionally the entire ovary and sometimes the tube may need to be removed. Surgery is usually performed laparoscopically (key hole surgery), but at times a laparotomy (open surgery) may be required.
More information on ovarian cyst surgery is available here.