During a menstrual cycle, your ovaries naturally produce cyst-like structures called follicles, which contain the estrogen and progesterone required to trigger the release of an egg during ovulation. Sometimes, these normal follicles continue to grow into what are called functional cysts, the most common type of ovarian cyst. Functional cysts are usually benign, or noncancerous. There are two types of functional cysts:
Follicular cyst: This is an egg that hasn’t been released out of its follicle for ovulation, which allows the follicle and the egg inside to grow into a cyst. This type of cyst doesn’t usually cause symptoms, and normally goes away in a few short months.
Corpus luteum cyst: This is a follicle that has released its egg for ovulation, but then somehow becomes sealed shut, allowing fluid to accumulate and a cyst to develop. Certain fertility drugs increase the chances of this type of cyst. Although they usually go away without causing symptoms, they can grow large and become painful.
Yes. Less commonly, ovarian cysts that are not related to the normal function of menstruation can form. Dermoid cysts, cystadenomas, and endometriomas are the three main types of non-functional ovarian cysts. These are far less common, and they’re usually benign.
The small cysts that women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) develop are also typically benign, but they can cause fertility problems.
Although most cysts don’t cause symptoms and go away on their own, larger cysts can cause pelvic pressure or pain, or even make you feel the urge to urinate often if it’s pushing on your bladder. You may feel general, ongoing pelvic pain that radiates into your lower back, or you may only feel it shortly before or just after your period. Pelvic pain during sexual intercourse is another possible symptom.
Because many cysts go away on their own after one or two menstrual cycles, treatment of a problematic cyst often includes a period of watchful waiting. That means that, after your gynecologist diagnoses the cyst with an ultrasound, further ultrasounds will be performed to monitor the cysts progression or growth.
If the cyst is very large or causes severe symptoms, or if cancer is suspected, your doctor may recommend surgery. Benign cysts are usually removed laparoscopically, which is a minimally invasive surgery that only requires a small incision. Open surgery may be performed if the cyst is especially large, or if cancer is suspected.
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