What are ovarian cysts?

A cyst is like a balloon filled with fluid. The majority of cysts in the ovary are physiological (natural or functional). As ova (eggs) start to mature they develop in follicular cysts. These generally reach up to 2.5 cms diameter. Occasionally they can reach 4 or 5 cms diameter. The vast majority of small cysts will disappear without treatment. Sometimes these cysts continue to release hormones delaying the onset of the next period. the Question of pregnancy then arises. If there is associated pain, the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy (Q12.23) needs to be considered. Modern pregnancy tests are very sensitive and a negative result excludes this diagnosis.

Endometriosis may result in chocolate filled cysts of the ovaries (18). In polycystic ovary syndrome (Q7. 2) the cysts are small varying from 2-8 mm. They are not cysts that need to be removed and they do not seem to cause pain.

True ovarian cysts may continue to increase in size. Every sort of tissue within an organ has the potential to form a tumour, which can be benign or malignant. As the ovaries contain most tissue types including eggs that have the potential to produce every tissue, there is a greater variety of tumours of the ovaries than for any other organ. With increasing age of the patient there is a greater chance of an ovarian cyst proving to be malignant. When there is concern that an ovarian cyst could be malignant a blood test for a tumour marker (Ca-125) may provide guidance (Q32.25).

Women's Health

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