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Ovarian Cysts: why do they form, what are the symptoms, how are they treated and more

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  • Written By: Felicia Messimer
Ovarian Cysts: why do they form, what are the symptoms, how are they treated and more

Editor's Note: This story contains content that may be of a sensitive nature.

Female power begins with learning about your female parts. After all, the more you know, the more control you have over your health.

One topic to read up on: ovarian cysts. There's a good chance you'll have one of these fluid-filled sacs form in or on your ovary at some point in your life. Most cysts are harmless—they don't cause symptoms, they're not cancerous and they go away on their own.

Still, it pays to have the answers to these four frequently asked questions:

How and why do ovarian cysts form?
Your ovaries are two small organs, sitting on either side of your uterus, that contain eggs and female hormones.

During ovulation, an egg grows in a tiny sac—called a follicle—within an ovary. When the egg is ready to come out, the sac breaks open and dissolves. The egg then travels through the fallopian tube and into the uterus. If something goes wrong with this process, you can develop what's called a functional cyst. There are two types:

  • Follicle cysts, which form when the sac doesn't break open but keeps growing and becomes a cyst.
  • Corpus luteum cysts, which form when the egg is released but the sac doesn't dissolve, and the remains form a cyst.

Other types of cysts can form because of endometriosis, pregnancy, infection or cell abnormalities.

What are the symptoms?
Most cysts are small and don't cause symptoms. If there are symptoms, they may include:

  • Pressure, swelling, bloating, or pain in the abdomen or pelvic region. o Dull or sharp ache in the abdomen or lower back and thighs.
  • Pain during certain activities, including sex.

How are they detected?
A cyst may be found by your doctor during a routine pelvic exam or when examining you because of symptoms. Your doctor may recommend an ultrasound to look more closely at the cyst. Blood and hormone tests may be done to uncover the cause.

In some cases, a doctor may order a blood test that measures a substance called CA-125, which may be a marker for ovarian cancer. Only 1 percent of ovarian cysts are malignant.

How are they treated?
In most cases, nothing has to be done about a cyst. It will go away in one to three months. Birth control pills are a treatment option—they won't get rid of a cyst, but they can prevent new ones from forming.

If a cyst does not go away after several menstrual cycles, gets larger or causes pain, it may be removed surgically. Laparoscopy and laparotomy are the two main procedures done to remove cysts.

Have questions?
Campbell County Clinics—OB GYN Specialists encourages you to speak with your doctor if you have questions regarding ovarian cysts. Visit to schedule an appointment.

Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Office on Women's Health. Image from the Office on Women's Health.