Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Hand holding a pen to point out ovarian cyst on an ultrasound picture.

Hand holding a pen to point out ovarian cyst on an ultrasound picture.
beginning of content

Ovarian cysts

6-minute read

Key facts

  • An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac in your ovary.
  • Most are not cancerous and many go away without treatment.
  • Many cysts don’t cause symptoms.
  • If they need to be removed, it’s usually possible with keyhole surgery.
  • Sometimes a cyst can rupture or make your ovary twist. This may need emergency treatment.

What is an ovarian cyst?

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms in your ovary. They are common, and almost every female will have one at some stage. Most are not cancerous.

What types of ovarian cysts are there?

Functional cysts

During a normal menstrual cycle your ovaries release an egg, which has grown inside a tiny follicle (sac). After releasing the egg, the follicle eventually gets smaller and disappears.

Sometimes, the follicle doesn’t open and release the egg. Instead, it continues growing and fills with fluid. This forms a follicular cyst.

Sometimes, the follicle doesn’t shrink after it releases the egg. Instead, it keeps growing and fills with fluid and sometimes blood. This forms a corpus luteum cyst.

These cysts are common and usually disappear within 2 to 3 months. While the cyst is there, your period might not come on time. Once the cyst has gone, your period usually goes back to normal.


Also known as ‘chocolate cysts’, these are caused by endometriosis and can develop if cells from the lining of your uterus (womb) attach to your ovaries. When you get your period, these spots bleed and can form cysts filled with blood.

These cysts grow, but are not cancerous. Some endometriomas cause pain or pressure. They may also make it more difficult for you to become pregnant.

Dermoid cyst

These contain different types of body tissue, such as hair, fat, skin, teeth and bone. They grow very slowly and are not cancerous.


These are filled with watery fluid or mucus. They keep growing and are not cancerous.


This occurs when a fallopian tube becomes blocked and fills with fluid. It is usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection. It can lower your fertility.

Ovarian cancers

Cancerous cysts are rare, especially before menopause. There are several types of ovarian cancer.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?

Many cysts don’t cause symptoms. You might discover you have one if you have an ultrasound for another reason.

Symptoms are more likely if a cyst is large, growing quickly or pressing on other organs.

Symptoms may include:

Haemorrhage or rupture

Sometimes there is bleeding inside a cyst, or a cyst can break open and cause heavy bleeding. This causes sudden severe pelvic pain and sometimes light-headedness and nausea.

Ovarian torsion

If a cyst grows bigger than 5 cm, it can make the ovary twist. This cuts off the ovary’s blood supply. It causes sudden severe pelvic pain, nausea and vomiting. It is an emergency.

If you have sudden pelvic pain and vomiting or light-headedness, go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

How will I be diagnosed with an ovarian cyst?

Your doctor may examine you and suggest tests, including:

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

What treatment will I need for an ovarian cyst?

Many ovarian cysts go away without treatment.

If tests indicate your cyst is non-cancerous, your doctor may advise that no treatment is necessary but that you have regular check-ups to monitor the cyst’s size.

Your doctor may suggest removing the cyst if it:

  • doesn't go away after 3 months
  • grows, especially if it’s bigger than 6cm
  • causes symptoms
  • may be cancerous

Non-cancerous cysts are usually removed by laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). Before menopause, your surgeon will usually try to remove just the cyst and not your whole ovary. Even if your ovary needs to be removed, your fertility and hormones are usually not affected, as you still have a second ovary.

If a cyst bleeds or ruptures, it usually gets better by itself within 1 to 3 days. Pain relieving medicines may help. If there is heavy bleeding, you may need emergency treatment in hospital and sometimes surgery.

Ovarian torsion requires emergency surgery.

Are ovarian cysts related to polycystic ovary syndrome?

No. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition. If you have PCOS, your ovaries will contain many small cysts. These are not true ovarian cysts. They are follicles containing eggs that haven’t fully developed.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) - Better Health Channel

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormonal condition associated with irregular menstrual cycles, excess hair growth, acne, reduced fertility, and increased risk of diabetes and mood changes.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Cysts - Better Health Channel

Cysts may be as small as a blister or large enough to hold litres of fluid.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Polycystic ovary syndrome -

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects females in their reproductive years. It may cause irregular periods, excess hair growth and ovarian cysts.

Read more on myDr website

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal condition affecting women in their reproductive years.

Read more on Your Fertility website

PCOS and pregnancy

Find out how polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can affect fertility and increase your risk of some complications during pregnancy.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

PCOS and physical activity | Jean Hailes

How physical activity can help you manage Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). What types of activity are best and when to see your doctor.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Sleep disturbances in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) - Hormones Australia

Does PCOS affect sleep? Recent research shows poor sleep is around 1.5 times more likely in women with PCOS compared to those without PCOS. Experts discuss these findings and provide simple steps to improve sleep

Read more on Hormones Australia website

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) | Dietitians Australia

PCOS is a common hormonal condition of the ovaries that can cause problems such as an irregular menstrual cycle, weight gain, impaired fertility and poor mental health. Diet and lifestyle changes are the first steps to manage PCOS, and an Accredited Practising Dietitian specialising in PCOS is the most qualified professional to help.

Read more on Dietitians Australia website

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) | Jean Hailes

PCOS is a hormone imbalance that affects about one in 10 women. This condition is associated with increased levels of two hormones in the body.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) | Your Fertility

PCOS can be associated with a range of symptoms including irregular periods and difficulties getting pregnant

Read more on Your Fertility website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.