Sometimes the finding of an ovarian cyst can be concerning to patients. However, a brief discussion with your provider can help to clarify this sometimes confusing diagnosis. Ovarian cysts are common for women during childbearing years. The ovaries can form one or several cysts that may vary in size. It is a normal process to form an ovarian cyst monthly. These are often simple or benign in nature. This finding can be an indication of a correctly functioning ovulation process.
The cyst may grow to an appropriate size and rupture, releasing an egg causing ovulation during the middle of a menstrual cycle. Most cysts will go away within 2-6 weeks and do not cause any symptoms. Some patients may feel brief discomfort with ovulation.
However, when a cyst grows to a size that is larger than expected, multiple cysts are seen or appear solid on ultrasound, the finding of an ovarian cyst may lead to various conversations with your provider. The discussion may include a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome, a dermoid cyst, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or a simple cyst that is too large and has the risk for torsion. Repeat ultrasounds, blood work, or surgery can be a possible next step in some cases. Your provider may discuss short term and long term interventions including "watchful waiting", birth control pills, or surgery.
Ovarian cysts can be a common and sometimes expected diagnosis. Although most are harmless and will resolve on their own, your provider may want to keep track of some cysts that are found to confirm they do not cause any concerns (ACOG, 2015).
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (July 2015) Patient Education Pamphlet: Ovarian Cysts