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Types of Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts are sacs or pockets of fluid that form on the ovaries. There are two types of cysts: simple and complex.

Simple Cysts

These are fluid-filled cysts that have no solid features. They are often either a functional cyst or a noncancerous tumor.  It's rare for a simple cyst to be associated with cancer. Functional cysts frequently form in reproductive-aged women as part of regular ovulation (releasing an egg from an ovary during the menstrual cycle), but they usually go away on their own.

The most common types are:

  • Corpus luteum cysts  These cysts occur after your ovary’s follicle (sac) releases an egg and the sac fills with fluid. When the follicle bleeds, it’s called a hemorrhagic (bleeding) ovarian cyst.
  • Follicular cyst  These types of cysts appear when the sac doesn’t release an egg. However, the sac will keep expanding.

Other simple cysts may be caused by benign tumors that will persist but may not need to be removed if they are not growing or causing symptoms.

Complex Ovarian Cysts­

A complex or non-functional cyst is one that isn’t associated with ovulation. These are solid or partially solid and can grow to cause discomfort or pain. Most ovarian cysts are noncancerous, but a small percentage of complex cysts are cancerous. The cancer risk is somewhat higher for post-menopausal women.

Why Choose University of Utah Health?

U of U Health offers the most effective treatment options for ovarian cysts, such as the latest minimally invasive techniques. Our multidisciplinary women’s health specialists will work with you to provide individualized treatment for your ovarian cysts while keeping your reproductive goals in mind.

Ovarian Cyst Symptoms

Sharp or dull pain is typically the only symptom of an ovarian cyst. The pain may be located in your pelvis or either side of your abdomen. Ovarian cysts may also cause bloating or a feeling of abdominal or pelvic fullness as the cyst pushes against other areas within your pelvis.

When to See a Doctor for Ovarian Pain

Since most ovarian cysts don’t show symptoms, it can be difficult to know when to seek help. You should see your doctor right away if you experience any of the following signs:

  • sudden or severe ovary pain,
  • fever,
  • nausea or vomiting, and
  • dizziness or fainting.

Diagnosing Ovarian Cysts

Your doctor will often discover an ovarian cyst during your annual pap smear. However, if you make an appointment for pelvic pain, your doctor will perform an internal and external pelvic exam to feel for cysts. If they suspect you have a cyst, they will order an ultrasound to confirm their diagnosis.

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What Is the Treatment for an Ovarian Cyst?

Our experts will work with you to determine the best course of treatment. Most of the time, your doctor will perform an ultrasound every three to six months to keep an eye on your cysts. This will help them determine if and when they require removal. 

If your ovarian cyst needs to be surgically removed, we will perform one of the following procedures:

Your surgical options will depend on the number and size of your cysts. Our highly trained gynecologic surgeons are usually able to keep your ovary intact if the cyst is not too large. We will discuss each treatment option with you.

Draining Ovarian Cysts

We do not drain ovarian cysts because:

  • they typically return fast using this method.
  • this method won't allow us to get enough tissue to test for cancer.

What Can Happen If a Cyst Is Left Untreated?

Most cysts will go away on their own. However, if an untreated cyst twists or ruptures, you could risk losing your ovary or bleeding excessively. These complications can affect your fertility and, in rare cases, lead to death. If you experience ovarian cyst symptoms, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor immediately.

What to Expect After an Ovarian Cyst Ruptures

It’s common for a simple, fluid-filled cyst to rupture or burst due to its increasing size. However, a rupture usually doesn't need to be treated because your body reabsorbs the fluid.

Other Ovarian Cyst Complications

  • Ovarian torsion—Torsion occurs when the cyst has twisted. The twisting causes severe pain and could cut off blood circulation to your ovary. Ovarian torsion is an emergency that requires surgery within hours to save the ovary.
  • MalignancyAn ovarian cyst malignancy, or cancer, is rare, especially among premenopausal women. However, your doctor will want to rule out cancer if you have a complex ovarian cyst or are considered high-risk.

You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you experience:

Make An Appointment With Our Gynecologists

If you have symptoms of ovarian cysts or are considering treatment for known cysts, call 801-213-2995 for an appointment with one of our gynecologists. No referral is necessary to see one of our specialists for ovarian cyst treatment and management.

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