A cyst is a ball of fluid within the ovary. Cysts are very common and usually they are benign. There are many different types of cyst. Some are functional cysts, which means they develop during the normal functioning of the ovary (e.g ovulation).
Common benign cysts contain clear fluid. Other cysts contain blood (haemorrhagic cysts or endometriomas). Some other cysts contain mucous (mucinous cysts). Others still contain hair and teeth (dermoid cysts).
Very occasionally, cysts can become cancerous.
Not all cysts cause problems. The usual symptom of an ovarian cyst is pain in the lower abdomen. Ultrasound is the usual way to diagnose the type of cyst and to decide on treatment. A blood test may also be required to check on whether the cyst is likely to be benign or not (CA125 and other tumour markers). Occasionally if the ultrasound is unclear as to the type of cyst, an MRI scan will be advised.
Some cysts only need monitoring to see if they go away by themselves. Most functional cysts go away within 3-4 months. If you have such a cyst and if it is not causing too many problems, you will be offered a repeat scan in 3 months time to check if the cyst has resolved.
Surgery for ovarian cysts
Most small cysts can be removed through laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). The aim is to remove the cyst and leave the rest of the ovary behind, especially in young women.
Large cysts may require laparotomy (bigger cut on the tummy) and sometimes the whole ovary may need to be removed.
If a malignancy is suspected, a full hysterectomy to remove both tubes and ovaries as well will be recommended.
Holly House Hospital
Clinics Thursdays 10-12.00
Tel: 0208 936 1201
BMI London Independent Hospital
Clinics Thursdays 1-4pm
Tel: 0207 780 2400
Spire Roding Hospital
Roding Lane South
Clinics Alternate Mondays 2-4pm
Tel: 0208 709 7878