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What is an ovarian cyst?

An ovarian cyst is a round structure within an ovary that is filled with fluid, blood, or other materials, depending on what kind of cyst it is.  The great majority of cysts are “functional,” which means they arise for unknown reasons during the menstrual cycle, and often go away on their own after the next menstrual period.  Many times they can get as large as an inch on diameter and still be within the range of these “normal” cysts. On occasion there can be pain when a cyst forms or when it leaks fluid.

When a cyst of this type happens to be seen on a test like an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI scan, it then takes an experienced physician to decide whether or not that cyst is playing a role is causing any pain that might be present at the time. Other “cysts” are really benign tumors, or growths, on an ovary that will not go away without treatment, usually surgical. Endometriomas, dermoids, and benign simple cysts of the ovaries are the most common examples.

While pelvic ultrasound is a good way of visualizing cysts of this time, the ultrasound is not very accurate in telling us what kind of cyst, or tumor, might be present.  For this definitive diagnosis, we rely on surgery. Our division has extensive experience in the safe, successful removal of ovarian cysts up to 10-12 cm (4 inches) in diameter, all done through laparoscopic surgery. When performed this way, post-operative scarring is minimized, and recovery is much faster than when the same surgery is done through a large incision (laparotomy).