An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac in the ovary. During the menstrual cycle, it’s normal for the ovaries to make cysts. Most are small and benign (non-cancerous); larger cysts, however, can cause pain and other problems.

Overview and Symptoms

Most cysts don't cause symptoms and go away on their own. However, a large ovarian cyst can cause:

  • Pelvic pain — a dull or sharp ache in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst
  • Fullness or heaviness in your abdomen
  • Bloating

When there is sudden and severe pain due to a cyst, it may because:

  • bleeding irritates the surrounding tissue and causes pain
  • the cyst twists around, disrupting blood flow to the ovary

Treatment

Treatment for ovarian cysts depends on a woman’s age, menstrual status, the size and type of the cysts, and the severity of symptoms (typically pelvic pain and menstrual bleeding). A pelvic laparoscopy may be recommended to remove a cyst that:

  • grows larger or reaches a size greater than two inches
  • has some solid material in it
  • causes persistent or worsening symptoms
  • lasts longer than two or three menstrual cycles
  • disrupts blood flow

If the cyst is not cancerous, it can often be removed using minimally invasive techniques. However, in some cases, the whole ovary may need to be removed. If the cyst is cancerous, both the ovaries and uterus may have to be removed, typically with an open surgical procedure.

Learn More

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at BIDMC provides outstanding care for all women throughout their lives, in a friendly, comfortable and safe environment.

Obstetrics and Gynecology