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reviewed 9/9/2018

Ovarian cysts: True or false?

An ovarian cyst is a sac or pouch filled with fluid or other tissue that forms on the ovary. These cysts are common in women of all ages, and they can vary in size. Most ovarian cysts form during a woman's menstrual cycle. How much do you know about them?

True or false: Most ovarian cysts are not cancerous.

True. Most ovarian cysts are benign. Very few turn out to be malignant (cancerous). In fact, before menopause, less than 1 percent of ovarian cysts are related to cancer. Once a cyst is discovered, a doctor can run further tests to determine if the cyst is cancerous.

True or false: It is possible for you to have an ovarian cyst and not know it.

True. Many women who have an ovarian cyst don't have symptoms. The most common way to detect an ovarian cyst is through a pelvic exam or an imaging test.

True or false: Using hormonal birth control can cause ovarian cysts to form.

False. Hormonal birth control can actually prevent new ovarian cysts from forming. In fact, hormonal birth control may be prescribed to prevent some types of ovarian cysts. However, the treatment won't make cysts you already have go away.

True or false: The most common sign of an ovarian cyst is spotting or vaginal bleeding.

False. Vaginal bleeding is not usually a sign of an ovarian cyst. Common symptoms are usually pressure, bloating, swelling, and a dull or sharp pain in the lower abdomen. If you have sharp pain with nausea and vomiting, you should see a doctor right away.

True or false: Ovarian cysts sometimes go away on their own.

True. Ovarian cysts do not always need to be treated. In women who have not gone through menopause, these cysts usually resolve on their own in one to two months. However, in women who have gone through menopause, these cysts are less likely to go away and may need surgery to remove them.

If you're having pelvic pain or another symptom of an ovarian cyst, it's time to talk to your doctor. Read more about cysts and other concerns in the Ovaries topic center.

Visit the ovaries topic center

Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Office on Women's Health; UpToDate

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