Can Ovarian Cysts Be the Start of Cancer?

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Are ovarian cysts considered a risk factor for ovarian cancer?

Doctor's response

Ovarian cancer can sometimes look like an ovarian cyst on radiologic studies, such as pelvic ultrasound.  Because ovarian cancer risk increases with age, the risk that ovarian cancer will be "disguised" as an ovarian cyst depends on the age of the woman, as well as other risk factors for ovarian cancer.  These other risks include certain features of the family history, use of oral contraceptives (they decrease the risk of ovarian cancer), and use of certain fertility medications, among others.  Therefore, although overall the vast majority of ovarian cysts are benign, the risk in any individual woman depends on many factors.

Thank you for your question.

Carolyn Janet Crandall, M.D.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/11/2018