How are ovarian cysts found?

Since ovarian cysts may not cause symptoms, they are usually found during a routine pelvic exam. During this exam, your doctor is able to feel the swelling of the cyst on your ovary. Once a cyst is found, the doctor may perform an ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create images of the body. With an ultrasound, the doctor can see how the cyst is shaped; its size and location; and whether it’s fluid-filled, solid, or mixed. A pregnancy test is also done. Hormone levels (such as LH, FSH, estradiol, and testosterone) may also be checked. Your doctor may want to do other tests as well.

To find out if the cyst might be cancerous, your doctor may do a blood test to measure a substance in the blood called CA-125. The amount of this protein is higher if a woman has ovarian cancer. However, some ovarian cancers do not make enough CA-125 to be detected by the test. There are also non-cancerous diseases that increase the levels of CA-125, like uterine fibroids and endometriosis. These non-cancerous causes of increased CA-125 are more common in women under 35, while ovarian cancer is very uncommon in this age group. For this reason, the CA-125 test is recommended mostly for women over age 35, who are at high risk for the disease and have a cyst that is partially solid.



Ovarian Cysts Questions

Information is provided by:  The National Women's Health Information Center which is Sponsored by the Office on Women's Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services