Some ovarian cysts don't need testing or monitoring

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Dec. 7, 2018—Simple ovarian cysts are extremely common. And it's a common practice to have these cysts monitored or even removed. But a new study suggests that simple ovarian cysts don't need all this attention.

The latest analysis

Researchers looked at more than 72,000 women over 12 years. They found that simple ovarian cysts are common in both pre- and post-menopausal women. However, the cysts aren't linked to a higher risk of ovarian cancer. So, as long as the cysts don't cause any symptoms, they can be ignored.

In fact, researchers say that statistically, the risk of developing cancer was approximately zero in women with a simple cyst. This was regardless of the size of the cyst.

A different way to look at ovarian cysts

In the last two decades, transvaginal pelvic ultrasound has led to the identification of many ovarian masses. Most of those masses are benign, but the general practice has been to monitor simple cysts because ovarian cancer can be difficult to detect.

While this surveillance doesn't seem harmful, researchers point out that testing does have its downsides. It can waste time, produce false-positive results and lead to unnecessary surgery. Plus, it can cause needless stress and anxiety.

On the other hand, complex cysts or solid ovarian masses need attention. They are far less common, but are linked to a much higher risk of cancer. These masses need to be watched and possibly removed.

For more details, read the study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Know the symptoms

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the U.S. About 22,000 cases are diagnosed and 14,000 women die each year.

Ovarian cancer can cause many symptoms. However, they often don't appear until after the cancer has spread. According to the American Cancer Society, the most common signs are:

  • Bloating.
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain.
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly.
  • Frequent urination or always feeling like you have to urinate.

These symptoms can also be caused by noncancerous diseases or other kinds of cancer. But with ovarian cancer, the signs tend to be persistent. And they're a change from what's normal for you. Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include fatigue, upset stomach, pain during sex and constipation.

A little knowledge can go a long way in protecting your health. Test your knowledge of ovarian cysts with this quiz.

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