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Ovarian cysts

ovarian cyst Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can form in or on your ovaries. They're very common, usually painless and will go away without treatment. They vary in size and number. They can affect women at any age.

Functional cysts are the most common type. They develop as part of your normal menstrual cycle. They will often disappear without treatment after a few weeks or months.

Pathological cysts are much less common, and are caused when abnormal cells grow.

Symptoms of ovarian cysts

A lot of ovarian cysts do not cause any symptoms, so they often go undiagnosed. Sometimes they are found by chance if you have an ultrasound scan for another reason, or during a pelvic examination.

If you do get symptoms, they can include:


If you have sudden, severe lower pelvic pain see a doctor urgently.

Diagnosing ovarian cysts

If your GP thinks you have a cyst that needs more investigation, they may recommend some tests, such as:

Treating ovarian cysts

Treatment for ovarian cysts depends on what type and size they are, whether they are causing any symptoms, and whether you have gone through menopause.

Most cysts go away by themselves.

Your doctor may refer you to a gynaecologist (a doctor who specialises in female reproductive health).

If your cyst is large or causing symptoms, the gynaecologist may recommend removing it, either to find out exactly what the cyst is, or to help with the symptoms. After the cyst is removed during surgery, it can then be examined under a microscope to find out what kind of cyst it is.

The surgery to remove an ovarian cyst is done under a general anaesthetic (you will be asleep). If the cyst is small it will probably be removed with keyhole surgery (a laparoscopy), but if the cyst's size or position makes keyhole surgery impossible, you will have a laparotomy. This means a bigger cut will be made to allow the whole cyst to be removed.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.


Page reference: 47491

Review key: HIOCV-16002