Do Oral Contraceptives Always Prevent Ovarian Cysts?

  • 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.

Ask the experts

If you have been taking oral contraceptives for years and are still diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, should there be concern? It's my understanding oral contraceptives prevent ovarian cysts from forming.

Doctor's response

Ovarian cysts may still form during oral contraceptive use, although oral contraceptives dramatically reduce formation of ovarian cysts.  What really matters is whether the cyst looks like a "typical" ovarian cyst or not.  What needs to be ruled out is another cause of ovarian mass, such as ovarian cancer, or a complication of an ovarian cyst, such as rupture or hemorrhage.  This evaluation needs to be done with a physician's help.  Once testing/evaluation is done, if an ovarian cyst is deemed to be typical (benign), then oral contraceptives can safely be used, possibly reducing development of further cysts.

Thank you for your question.

Author: Carolyn Janet Crandall, M.D.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018