Ovarian Cysts

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ovarian Cyst Symptoms and Signs

Cysts can arise through a variety of processes in the body, including:

  • Pain during intercourse
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Abdominal fullness
  • Breast pain
  • Aching in the pelvic region

Quick GuideWhat's Causing Your Abdominal Pain?

What's Causing Your Abdominal Pain?

Ovarian cysts definition and facts

  • Ovarian cysts are closed, sac-like structures within the ovary that are filled with a liquid or semisolid substance.
  • Ovarian cysts may not cause signs or symptoms. Larger cysts are more likely to cause signs and symptoms such as:
    • Pain in the abdomen or pelvis is the most common symptom
    • Feeling of bloating or indigestion
    • Feeling an urge to have a bowel movement or having difficult bowel movements
    • Pain during sexual intercourse
    • Pain in the lower right or left quadrant of the abdomen
  • There are many causes and types of ovarian cysts, for example, follicular cysts, "chocolate cysts," dermoid cysts, and polycystic ovary.
  • Most ovarian cysts are not cancerous.
  • Most ovarian cysts are diagnosed with ultrasound or physical examination. Transvaginal ultrasound is a common way to examine ovarian cysts.
  • The treatment of an ovarian cyst depends upon the cause of the cyst and varies from observation and monitoring to surgical treatment.

What are the ovaries and how big are they?

The ovary is one of a pair of reproductive glands in women that are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size and shape of a walnut. The ovaries produce eggs (ova) and the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. The ovaries are the main source of female hormones, which control the development of female body characteristics such as the breasts, body shape, and body hair. They also regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

What are ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts are closed, sac-like structures within an ovary that contain a liquid, or semisolid substance. "Cyst" is merely a general term for a fluid-filled structure, which may or may not represent a tumor or neoplasm (new growth). If it is a tumor, it may be benign or malignant. The ovary is also referred to as the female gonad.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/20/2016

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