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An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops in or on your ovary. They may occur naturally as part of your menstrual cycle or because of an overgrowth of cells. Most ovarian cysts don’t cause any symptoms and go away on their own without treatment. But sometimes, they may cause symptoms or need to be removed.
Most ovarian cysts develop naturally as part of your menstrual cycle. Others may develop because of an overgrowth of cells. They usually form because of hormonal changes in your body.
Ovarian cysts can also be caused if you have another health condition such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). For more information, see our sections on types and causes of ovarian cysts.
Most ovarian cysts don’t cause any symptoms and go away on their own without treatment. But sometimes, ovarian cysts may cause symptoms including pain in your lower tummy, bloating and painful periods. For more information on this, see our section on symptoms of ovarian cysts. Occasionally, an ovarian cyst can rupture or twist, causing severe pain in your tummy. If this happens, go to A&E immediately.
Probably not – most ovarian cysts are benign, which means they aren’t cancerous.
- About one in 1,000 ovarian cysts are found to be cancerous in women who have not yet gone through the menopause.
- About three in 1,000 ovarian cysts turn out to be cancerous in women over the age of 50.
You’ll have a number of tests to check whether your ovarian cyst is benign or cancerous. For more information, see our section on diagnosis.
Small ovarian cysts don't usually affect your fertility. Most ovarian cysts are small and go away without treatment. In some cases, ovarian cysts need to be removed by surgery. If at all possible, only the cyst will be removed and your ovary won’t be. If you do have to have an ovary removed, you can still get pregnant if your remaining ovary is working normally.
However, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are conditions that can cause ovarian cysts and can also cause problems with fertility.
Doctors used to prescribe the combined oral contraceptive pill for ovarian cysts, hoping this would make the cysts shrink. But we now know that this doesn’t work. However, if you keep having complications from an ovarian cyst, your doctor may offer you oral contraceptives to prevent ovulation. This may help reduce your risk of complications in future.
Many women have one or more cysts on their ovaries at some point in their lives. These often cause no symptoms and go away without treatment. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the name given to a collection of symptoms caused by abnormalities in the way your body produces and manages sex hormones. Having many small cysts on your ovaries can be just one aspect of this syndrome.
Not usually. The most common type of ovarian cyst is relatively small and is unlikely to affect your weight. But feeling bloated can be a symptom of having an ovarian cyst. This might make you feel as though you’ve put on weight.
If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you may put on weight as part of that condition.
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