Can Ovarian Cysts Be the Start of Cancer?

  • 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

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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Reviewed on 1/11/2018
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