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Are Ovarian Cysts Linked to Cancer?

Aug 13, 2020
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If you’ve been told or suspect you have ovarian cysts, you may be wondering what that means and whether you’re at a higher risk for developing ovarian cancer. Read on to understand more about this common condition and whether it’s linked to cancer.

If you’ve been told or suspect you have ovarian cysts, you may wonder if ovarian cysts increase your risk of developing cancer. The good news is that while ovarian cysts are extremely common, less than 2% of women in the United States develop ovarian cancer.   

At Progressive Women’s Health in Friendswood, Texas, Asia Mohsin, MD, and our caring team are dedicated to providing the best in comprehensive clinical care while also providing ample patient education and support. Dr. Mohsin is an expert at diagnosing and treating ovarian cysts.  

If you’re wondering about the link between ovarian cysts and cancer, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn more about these common growths and whether or not they’re linked to ovarian cancer. 

Why do I have ovarian cysts?

Your ovaries have an important job: They produce and mature eggs for fertilization. They’re also responsible for the production of estrogen and progesterone, the female sex hormones.

Under normal circumstances, every month your ovaries grow fluid-filled sacs called follicles. Around the middle of your menstrual cycle, a follicle should open and release an egg. 

If the follicle sac doesn’t open as it should, the fluid inside can cause a cyst to form on the ovary. This type of cyst is called a follicle cyst, and it’s common in women who have regular periods.

At other times, the sac can break open and release the egg, but then the sac won’t dissolve. As a result, fluid can build up and accumulate inside the sac, which can lead to a corpus luteum cyst. These cysts can grow and cause painful symptoms. 

Sometimes women can have many small cysts that form at the same time. This condition is called polycystic ovarian syndrome, which can cause the ovaries to get enlarged and normal hormone production to be disrupted. 

How do I know if my symptoms are from ovarian cysts?

For most women, ovarian cysts don’t have any noticeable symptoms or cause pain. These types of cysts usually resolve on their own. If you do experience unpleasant symptoms, it could be a sign that the cyst has grown too large and might need treatment. 

Symptoms that could be caused by ovarian cysts include: 

  • Bloating and swelling of your abdomen  
  • Deep pain during intercourse
  • Pain in your lower abdomen, pelvis, and/or lower back, frequently on one side
  • Discomfort or pain during bowel movements

Sometimes, cysts can rupture or cause the ovary to twist. If this happens, you need to seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms of a ruptured cyst or twisted ovary can include severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness or fainting. 

Are ovarian cysts linked to cancer?

Ovarian cysts are quite common and usually benign. In other words, just because you have cysts in your ovaries doesn’t mean you’ll get ovarian cancer. 

Although rare, however, some types of ovarian cysts are cancerous. Post-menopausal women with ovarian cysts have the highest risk for ovarian cancer. 

Dr. Mohsin uses results from imaging studies to determine the type of cyst, where it’s located, and its size. If your cyst appears to be semi-solid, a simple blood test called cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) can help determine if the cyst might be cancerous.

How are ovarian cysts treated?

The treatment for ovarian cysts depends on their severity and the reason the cysts formed. Frequently, ovarian cysts don’t require treatment and naturally resolve after several menstrual cycles.  

If your cysts cause pain or other troublesome symptoms, Dr. Mohsin will work with you to determine the right treatment plan. Pain medication or hormonal birth control can help regulate cysts that don’t resolve. Sometimes cyst removal is required, which is usually done through minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. 

If you want to learn more about ovarian cysts and the different treatment options available, book an appointment online or over the phone with Progressive Women’s Health today. We also offer TELEMEDICINE appointments if you’re unable to get to the office.