Are You at Risk for Ovarian Cysts

ovarian cyst, Gynecologic Surgery and Menopause Solutions

Let’s clear up two sources of confusion about ovarian cysts. For starters, many of our patients at Gynecologic Surgery and Menopause Solutions think that ovarian cysts are the same as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). But they’re quite different.

Ovarian cysts are not caused by an underlying disease. PCOS is caused by a hormone imbalance that affects your ovaries, where it often, but not always, causes numerous cysts to develop.

PCOS is a top cause of infertility, and it increases your risk for diabetes and heart disease. By comparison, ovarian cysts seldom interfere with getting pregnant or cause complications.

Here’s the second concern we often encounter about ovarian cysts. Women worry that ovarian cysts increase their risk for cancer, so they naturally want to know if they’re at a higher risk. Let’s put your mind at ease.

Determining your risk for ovarian cysts

Many women want to know if they’re at risk for ovarian cysts, but they often aren’t prepared for the answer. Why? Because every woman who has regular menstrual periods is at risk for developing ovarian cysts. Most women produce at least one cyst every month because it’s a normal part of their monthly cycle. You just aren’t aware it exists because the cyst goes away within a few months

Ovarian cysts can even occur in menopause, and they can even be found in infants, although they aren’t nearly as common in those age groups. Let’s take a closer look at how you develop cysts and whether they’re something to worry about.  

Cysts develop as a normal part of your menstrual cycle

During your monthly menstrual cycle, two types of functional cysts develop:

Follicular cysts

Inside your ovaries, each immature egg is contained in a sac called a follicle. Every month, several eggs start to mature and, when you ovulate, a follicle opens and releases its mature egg. When a mature egg isn’t released, the follicle turns into a cyst. These follicular cysts usually disappear in several months.

Corpus luteum cysts

After a follicle successfully releases its egg, the empty sac shrinks and is called the corpus luteum. If the corpus luteum doesn’t shrink, it can turn into a cyst as fluid builds up in the follicle. In most cases, corpus luteum cysts disappear within a few weeks.

Follicular and corpus luteum cysts are seldom a threat to your health. If they aren’t absorbed into your body, however, they can continue to grow. If they get large enough, they may cause:

Although it isn’t common, these ovarian cysts can get large enough to rupture. When that happens, you’ll have sudden, severe pain, together with a fever or vomiting. A ruptured cyst is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.

Ovarian cysts don’t cause cancer

You don’t need to worry about most ovarian cysts. Functional cysts don’t pose a cancer risk. A few other rare types of ovarian cysts, like dermoids and cystadenomas, are also benign. One unusual type of ovarian cyst — called an endometrioma — slightly increases your risk of cancer.

Endometriomas don’t even arise from ovarian tissues. They develop when endometrial tissue from your uterus grows in your ovaries. Although endometriomas increase your risk for developing cancer, they’re a larger threat to your fertility. They don’t respond well to treatment, and they can gradually destroy healthy ovarian tissue.

It’s easy to predict your overall risk for ovarian cysts, although there’s no way to know your risk for developing a cyst that gets large enough to cause painful symptoms. If you have any questions or you develop symptoms, call Gynecologic Surgery and Menopause Solutions, or schedule an appointment online.

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