Ovarian cysts are cavities within ovaries filled with fluid and are almost always benign. Cysts can occur from one month to the next. They may burst and thus disappear on their own. But if they have reached a certain size, they are unlikely to disappear naturally.
Most ovarian cysts produce no symptoms and women are unaware of their presence. However, if a cyst ruptures, twists, or if there is bleeding into the middle of the cyst, then one sided lower abdominal pain is common. If the cyst is large then it may cause pressure on the bladder or bowel.
Very occasionally, an ovarian cyst is actually the earliest form of ovarian cancer. However, this is extremely uncommon and mostly affects women over the age of 50.
You will be initially seen by the Consultant who will take a full history and perform an internal examination. You may then be referred for an ultrasound. Please see the information section for further details on ultrasound scans. A blood test may be taken if a cyst is present and you are 50 years of age or above.
Some women will be reassured if the investigations are normal. If an ovarian cyst is confirmed and measures greater than 5cm your Consultant will likely discuss removal of the cyst using keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) if possible. If the cyst is smaller than 5cm and you have minimal symptoms it will be possible to observe the cyst with a further ultrasound scan 3-6 months later.
Sometimes it is necessary to remove the entire ovary, rather than just the cyst at the time of the operation. This will not affect a women’s normal hormone production or periods.