An ovarian cyst is an accumulation of fluid in the ovary that is encapsulated inside a thin wall of tissue. It can be the size of a pea or as large as an orange or, very rarely, larger. They are very common (especially in women of childbearing age), and the majority are harmless.
There are two types of ovarian cysts, functional and pathological. Functional ovarian cysts are most common and occur during the menstruation cycle then subside. Pathological cysts may be benign or become malignant (cancerous).
The vast majority of cysts are benign and show no signs or symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they typically include irregular menstruation (painful, heavier, lighter), pelvic pain (which sometimes reaches the lower back and thighs), painful intercourse, painful bowel movements, bloating, incomplete emptying of the bladder, and hormonal abnormalities.
When symptoms occur, an abdominal ultrasound may be ordered, as well as a blood test, and a pregnancy test. Sometimes a laparoscopy will be performed, which can both confirm the presence of a cyst and remove it.