Common Health Problems  »  Women’s Health


Self-Care / Prevention

For Ovarian Cysts

  1. Limit caffeine.

  2. Have regular pelvic exams, as advised by your doctor.

  3. Take an over-the-counter medicine for pain as directed.

For Ovarian Cancer

  1. Medical care, not self-care, is needed. Follow your doctor’s advice.

  2. Have regular pelvic exams, as advised by your doctor.

  3. Ask your doctor for advice if you have a family history of breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer, especially in your mother, sister, or daughter.

Growths on ovaries are diagnosed with a pelvic exam and medical tests, as needed. Ways to detect growths include yearly pelvic and rectal exams and an ultrasound. No completely reliable test exists for ovarian cancer. A CA-125 blood test can detect the progression of ovarian cancer in a woman who has it. It is not a reliable screening test.

For Ovarian Cysts

Treatment depends on:

  1. The size and type of cyst(s).

  2. The woman’s desire to have children.

  3. The woman’s health status.

  4. How severe symptoms are.

Some cysts resolve without any treatment in 1 to 2 months. For others, birth control pills may be tried. Hormones in them suppress the cyst. If a cyst does not respond to this treatment, surgery may be needed to remove it. If a cyst is found early, it may be removed leaving the ovary. Sometimes, the ovary needs to be removed. The uterus and/or the fallopian tube may need to be removed, as well.

For Ovarian Cancer

The sooner the cancer is found and treated, the better the chance for recovery. Treatment includes:

  1. Surgery. The ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes are removed. If the cancer has spread, the surgeon removes as much of the cancer as possible.

  2. Chemotherapy.

  3. Radiation therapy.

  4. Clinical trials.


National Women’s Health Information Center


The ovaries are two almond-sized organs. One is found on each side of the uterus. Growths called cysts or tumors can form in, on, or near the ovaries. Cysts are sacs filled with fluid or semisolid matter. Ovarian cysts are common in women before menopause. Rarely, are these cysts cancer. Tumors are solid masses. Most often, tumors in the ovary are benign. Malignant tumors are ovarian cancer. This type of cancer occurs most often between the ages of 50 and 75. It can occur at other ages, too.

Signs & Symptoms

For Ovarian Cysts

  1. Ovarian cysts may cause no symptoms. When they occur, symptoms include:

  2. A feeling of fullness or swelling of the abdomen.

  3. Weight gain.

  4. A dull, constant ache on either or both sides of the pelvis.

  5. Pain during sex.

  6. Delayed, irregular, or painful periods.

  7. Growth of facial hair.

  8. Sharp, severe abdominal pain. Fever. Vomiting. These can be caused by a cyst that bleeds, breaks, or twists.

For Ovarian Cancer

In many cases, the cancer has spread by the time it is found. When symptoms appear, they are vague problems and are often ignored. Symptoms, even in early-stage ovarian cancer are:

  1. Bloating.

  2. Pain in the abdomen or pelvis.

  3. Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly.

  4. Urgent need to pass urine or passing urine often.

  5. These symptoms last almost daily for more than a few weeks.

Other symptoms can include:

  1. Back pain. Pain with intercourse.

  2. Constipation.

  3. Indigestion.

  4. Fatigue.

  5. Menstrual irregularities.


For Ovarian Cysts

  1. Some cysts are due to changes in the normal way the ovaries work.

  2. Some cysts result from cell growth. Most of these are benign, but need medical treatment. Examples are:

  3. -Dermoid cysts. These are growths filled with many types of tissue. Examples are fatty material, hair, teeth, bits of bone, and cartilage.

  4. -Polycystic ovaries. These are caused by a buildup of multiple small cysts from hormone problems. Irregular periods, body hair growth, and infertility can result.

Risk Factor for Ovarian Cysts

Taking hormones does not cause ovarian cysts.

  1. Being between the ages of 20 and 35.

  2. Endometriosis. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). The eating disorder bulimia.

  3. Obesity.

Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

  1. Not having children. Having children at an older age.

  2. Never taking birth control pills.

  3. Menopause occurred after age 55.

  4. Family history of ovarian, colon, breast, prostate, or lung cancer.

  5. Personal history of breast, uterine, colon, or rectal cancer.

  6. Being Caucasian.

  7. Increasing age.

Questions to Ask

Do you have very severe abdominal pain, a fever, and vomiting?

Do you have signs and symptoms for ovarian cancer or signs and symptoms for ovarian cysts listed above?

Cancer Information Service

800.4.CANCER (422.6237)


Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts