Is It Possible For Ovarian Cysts to Become Cancerous?

What are ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts are tiny sacs filled with fluid that can develop in or on a woman’s ovaries. The cysts are usually not cancerous and can often resolve on their own without treatment.

Ovarian cysts are moderately common in people who have regular periods because small cysts can develop as part of the menstrual cycle. When ovarian cysts develop due to regular ovulation during the menstrual cycle, they are called functional ovarian cysts.

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Ovarian cysts are typically not cancerous and cause no symptoms. Someone may only discover they have ovarian cysts by chance during a routine pelvic examination.

Cancerous cysts

The chances of ovarian cysts developing after a woman stops having periods (menopause), are low. However, if cysts form after menopause, they have a higher chance of becoming cancerous.

Pathological ovarian cysts

Pathological ovarian cysts occurs when ovarian cysts can develop as a result of excessive or abnormal cell growth. These cysts can be caused by endometriosis (a condition where the cells that line the womb start to appear outside the womb). Pathological ovarian cysts can sometimes be malignant (have the potential to cause ovarian cancer). People who have gone through menopause have a higher chance of developing pathological cysts.

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Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer occurs when cells in the ovaries grow and multiply in an uncontrolled way to form a tumor. These tumor cells can spread to nearby tissues and organs in the body.

Epithelial ovarian tumor

An epithelial ovarian tumor is the most common type of ovarian cancer and usually begins in the cells on the outer surface of the ovaries.

Symptoms of ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer

The early stages of ovarian cancer may cause slight or no symptoms. However, if an ovarian cyst is very large, it can block blood supply to the ovaries, causing symptoms such as:

  • pelvic pain, such as a dull or sharp pain in the lower abdomen
  • abdominal discomfort
  • loss of appetite
  • fever or vomiting
  • feeling full quickly after intake of small quantities of food
  • pain during sex
  • trouble emptying the bladder or the bowels
  • frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • abnormal periods, such as very heavy, very light, or irregular periods

Consult a doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

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A doctor may perform a type of ultrasound scan to diagnose the condition. Scans may include:

  • Transvaginal ultrasound. This involves inserting an ultrasound probe inside the vagina to view the ovaries.
  • Transabdominal ultrasound. This is a scan of the person’s lower abdomen to get a picture of the pelvic area.

If ovarian cyst is discovered during the ultrasound, additional ultrasound scans may be needed to continue monitoring the cyst. If the cyst is cancerous, a cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) blood test may be required. High levels of CA 125 in the blood signifies ovarian cancer.

Note that not everyone with high CA 125 levels has ovarian cancer. Other conditions such as endometriosis, pelvic infections, menstrual periods, and fibroids, can also produce high levels of CA 125.


Most ovarian cysts resolve on their own without medical treatment. However, a person may require treatment depending on their symptoms and the size of the cysts.


A doctor may sometimes prescribe birth control pill for a person with ovarian cysts. The pills may not shrink the size of the cyst, but may help prevent the condition from deteriorating.


Certain conditions can make a doctor may recommend operating and removing a cyst. These includes;

  • painful cysts
  • unusual cysts
  • very large cyst that is growing
  • cysts that remain after medication
  • cysts causes infertility
  • cysts may be malignant

Depending on the type of cyst, surgical options include:

  • Cystectomy: This surgical procedure removes the cyst but not the ovary
  • Oophorectomy. This involves removing the ovary along with the cyst but leaving the other ovary.
  • Total hysterectomy. This procedure involves removing the malignant cysts by removing the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus.


Article source: Medicalnewstoday

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