Ovarian cysts are very common so are the concerns or problems associated with them. Many women feel that ovarian cysts could turn into malignant cysts and cause long-term consequences. Majority of women get ovarian cysts or benign ovarian tumours during their reproductive age at some point in their lives. Let us try to understand whether ovarian cysts turn into ovarian cancer.

Your ovaries release an egg during ovulation from each follicle or sac. Mostly, the sac dissolves after releasing an egg. Sometimes, the sac may remain filled with fluid and develops into a cyst. Once formed, cysts go unnoticed as they remain within the ovaries without causing any symptoms. Sometimes, only mild symptoms may manifest or no apparent symptoms at all. Moreover, ovarian cysts detection is a chance event.

Remember! a mere presence of an ovarian cyst doesn’t indicate that it will develop into cancer as the majority of ovarian cysts do not develop into cancer.

Which type of ovarian cysts turns into cancer?

Endometriosis is a condition wherein endometrial tissue grows in areas outside the uterus. If the growth happens on the ovaries, it is known as ovarian endometrioma. This type of cysts may rarely increase the risk of ovarian cancer (Clear cell or endometrioid ovarian carcinomas). Some research studies suggest that endometriosis can accumulate somatic mutations and become atypical, and eventually transform to ovarian cancer.

Ovarian surface cells form liquid-filled cysts known as cystadenomas. These are mostly benign, but, in rare cases, these cysts (cystadenomas) may turn cancerous.

Ovarian teratomas (ovarian dermoid cysts) are mostly benign ovarian germ cells tumours, but rarely they may turn into malignant cancers.

How often does an ovarian cyst turn into cancer?

An ovarian cyst turning into cancer is a rare happening as most ovarian cysts are inherently non-cancerous or benign. However, in very rare cases, ovarian cysts can turn malignant or cancerous.

How to know whether an ovarian cyst is cancerous?

Many women may only discover they have ovarian cysts by chance during a routine pelvic examination done by ovarian cyst specialist Hyderabad. If a gynaecologist suspects any hints of malignancy during the pelvic examination and from other tests, she will refer the patient to a gynecologic oncologist.

Which women are at risk of ovarian cancer if they have ovarian cysts?

The risk of a normal ovarian cyst turning into ovarian cancer is high in women who have been through menopause. The cysts that are formed due to abnormal ovarian cell growth are known as pathological cysts. Women who have endometriosis, are at risk of developing pathological ovarian cysts. This happens in menopausal women. Pathological ovarian cysts may turn into cancerous or malignant cysts.

Bottom Line

Formation of ovarian cysts is a natural process. Cysts are relatively common during a woman’s reproductive life. Most of the cysts are benign, harmless and go on their own without requiring any treatment. Women who have reached menopause should become careful if they have ovarian cysts. In addition, women of all age should see their gynaecologist if they experience unusual, severe and persistent symptoms – such as pelvic pain, loss of appetite, painful sex and frequent urge to urinate, lower abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating and irregular bowels. Doctors recommend surgical removal of the cyst if it causes infertility, severe symptoms, bleeding, difficulty in carrying a pregnancy or if it becomes cancerous.

If you have any concerns regarding cyst removal surgery, read here – Ovarian Cyst Surgery FAQs

Dr Geetha Nagasree

Senior Consultant Surgical Oncologist

Ovarian cyst specialist Hyderabad