Know Your Ovaries: Symptoms of Cysts vs Cancer

Ovarian Cancer Vs Ovarian Cysts: Understanding the Differences  - DoctorOnCall

As we all know, the ovaries are in charge of producing eggs as well as the oestrogen and progesterone hormones in the female reproductive system. While ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer can both develop in the ovaries, they are very different conditions that require different types of treatment. Understanding the differences between ovarian cysts and ovarian cancers is crucial for early detection and successful treatment

What are Ovarian Cysts?

Most ovarian cysts form as part of a typical menstrual cycle and are non-cancerous. The two ovaries in a woman's body produce eggs, and each egg grows in a small sac called a follicle. 

When the egg is released, the follicle becomes a corpus luteum cyst, which usually disappears in a few weeks. Some other types of ovarian cysts include: 

  • Dermoid cysts: These contain the cells and tissues like hair and skin

  • Endometriomas: A condition where the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of it

  • Cystadenomas: Cysts that are filled with fluid and can grow large

While most cysts are harmless and do not cause any symptoms, some can cause severe pelvic pain, such as a ruptured ovarian cyst, or cause ovarian torsion. Large cysts may also cause discomfort or pressure in the abdomen.

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a cancer that begins in one or both ovaries and spreads to other parts of the body. Cancer cells can form on the surface of the ovary or even in the cells that aid in egg production.

How Similar Are They?

The symptoms of ovarian cancer and ovarian cysts can be similar, which is why it is essential to seek medical attention if you experience any concerning symptoms.

However, ovarian cancer symptoms tend to be more severe and persistent, and they may include:

Can Ovarian Cysts Raise Cancer Risk?

Most ovarian cysts are not usually cancerous and are instead functional cysts that form during the menstrual cycle. These typically disappear within a few weeks. However, some cysts may increase the risk of ovarian cancer so it's best to check with your doctor about it.

Do Ultrasounds Detect Cancerous Ovarian Cysts?

Ultrasound is often used to diagnose ovarian cysts, but it cannot determine if a cyst is cancerous or not. If your healthcare provider suspects that a cyst may be cancerous, they may order additional tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, or perform a biopsy to examine the cyst's cells. 

Are Treatments for Cysts and Cancer Different?

Yes, the treatments for ovarian cancer and ovarian cyst are different. Treatment for ovarian cysts may include:

An ovarian cancer treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Primary peritoneal cancer treatment may also be used in some cases, which is similar to ovarian cancer but affects the peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen.


Prevention and early detection are key when it comes to ovarian cancer and ovarian cysts. Some ways to prevent ovarian cancer include taking oral contraceptives, having a healthy diet and exercise regimen, and testing if you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer. If you have concerns about ovarian cysts or ovarian cancer, speak with your healthcare provider.


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