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How are ovarian cysts treated?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Treatment for ovarian cysts varies according to the information discovered by your medical tests and your symptoms, as follows

Watchful waiting - You may be told to wait and have a second exam in 1 to 3 months to see if the cyst has changed in size. This is helpful for women who:

  • Are in their childbearing years
  • Have no symptoms
  • Have a fluid-filled cyst

It may be an option for postmenopausal women, depending on the type of cyst found.

Surgery - Your doctor may want to remove the cyst if you are postmenopausal or if it:

  • Doesn't go away after a few monthly cycles
  • Gets larger over time
  • Looks peculiar on the ultrasound
  • Causes you discomfort

Surgeries used for ovarian cysts include:

  • Laparoscopy - if the cyst is small and looks benign (noncancerous) on the ultrasound. A very small cut is made above or below your navel. A small instrument that acts like a scope is put into your abdomen and can be used to remove the cyst.
  • Laparotomy - if the cyst is large and may be cancerous. Larger incisions are made in the stomach to remove the cyst. The cyst is then tested for cancer. If it is cancerous, the doctor may need to remove the ovary and other tissues, like the uterus. If only one ovary is taken out, your body is still fertile and can still produce estrogen.

Both these surgeries are done under general anesthesia.

Birth control pills - If you keep forming functional cysts, your doctor may prescribe birth control pills to stop you from ovulating. If you don't ovulate, you are less likely to form new cysts. You can also use Depo-Provera, a hormone that is injected into the muscle, which prevents ovulation for 3 months at a time.

Dr. Shelley C. Giebel, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

After an ovarian cyst is evaluated by ultrasound and found to be only fluid (no solid components) it is best to let it heal on its own.  Birth control pills can also be used to prevent further cysts from forming.  However infrequently, the cysts may persist and surgery may be necessary. 

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health
Ovarian cysts 3 cm or smaller are functional cysts, part of the ovulatory cycle, and do not require treatment. Larger cysts also often resolve on their own but should be followed up with an ultrasound in 1 to 3 months. Sometimes birth control pills, patch or ring are used to help the cyst shrink, Very large, 6 cm or larger, cysts containing solid material, and cysts with several compartments or septations, sometime require laparoscopic surgery.
Dr. Kevin W. Windom, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Most functional ovarian cysts are simple in nature and just fluid filled. If your healthcare provider believes that your cyst is just a simple fluid filled cyst, these cysts tend to resolve on their own in 2-3 months.  Many times I will place patients on birth control pills to help keep them from ovulating, and by not ovulating they will be less likely to form functional cysts. If an ovarian cyst has not resolved in 2-3 months, then there is consideration towards surgical treatment. The surgical treatment for ovarian cysts is a laparoscopy in which a telescope is placed into the bellybutton and the cyst is either drained or removed. If ovarian cysts become very painful, there is the possibility that the cyst can be so heavy that it can cause a twisting of the ovary. This is a phenomenon called ovarian torsion syndrome. If a patient has ovarian torsion, then there is a decrease in the blood supply to the ovary, which can cause irreparable damage to the ovary and possibly kill the ovary. If a patient has ovarian torsion, this needs to be treated surgically so as to remove the cyst and untwist the ovary.

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing Specialist

Most ovarian cysts are called functional ovarian cysts. The cyst is filled with fluid and will usually resolve on its own in 2-3 months. Some women make these functional cysts quite frequently and are treated with birth control pills to prevent ovulation and therefore help prevent future cysts from forming. Ovarian cysts are confirmed by ultrasound diagnosis. If the cyst is not functional, grows, or is persistent it may need to be removed by laparoscopic surgery. If you think you have an ovarian cyst make sure to make an appointment with your health care provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.