It's possible, but here's why you shouldn't freak out.

By Dr. Roshini Raj
Updated: September 27, 2018

Can ovarian cysts be cancerous?

Some can be, but the vast majority are not. Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs in or on the ovaries, and they fall into two general categories. The most common type, called functional cysts, occur as a normal part of the . Every month, your ovaries grow structures called follicles in preparation for releasing an egg. If a follicle doesn't break open and release an egg, a cyst can form. Many women will get this type of cyst each month; they're usually small and harmless, and they disappear on their own within two or three menstrual cycles.

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You can also develop growths that are unrelated to . Generally referred to as neoplastic cysts, most are benign. However, in rare cases, one of them may be cancerous. A cyst on the ovary is more likely to indicate cancer if you've already gone through menopause. (In general, the risk of ovarian cancer increases as you age; meanwhile, roughly 8 percent of postmenopausal women develop cysts every year.)

Some symptoms of cysts can be nonspecific, but tell your doctor if you've experienced pressure or pain, or a feeling of fullness after eating only a small amount. Pelvic exams may help detect and monitor cysts, and ultrasounds and a CA-125 blood test can give better clues as to whether a cyst is cancerous. If a mass persists or continues to grow after more than six to eight weeks, has solid parts or walled sections (rather than being strictly fluid-filled) and its own blood flow, surgery may be the next step.

Health‘s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.