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New research suggests women may not need surgery for non-cancerous ovarian cysts

06 February 2019


New research published in the journal Lancet Oncology has suggested women may not need to undergo surgery for non-cancerous ovarian cysts, avoiding potential surgical complications.

A team of international scientists followed 1919 women from 10 different countries, including the UK, Belgium, Sweden and Italy, who were diagnosed with non-cancerous ovarian cysts.

Ovarian cysts are quite common and usually don't cause any symptoms, however in some cases they can present in the same way as ovarian cancer, with symptoms such as pelvic pain and bloating.

Suspected cancerous cysts are always surgically removed and tested and benign ovarian cysts are usually recommended to be surgically removed too. This new study explores an alternative to surgery; 'Watchful waiting' is where doctors do not remove the cysts, but monitor their size and appearance with regular ultrasound scans. This is because many cysts shrink and disappear or do not change over time.

Professor Tom Bourne, lead researcher from Imperial College London said this study suggests watchful waiting is suitable for most women when an ovarian cyst is initial classified as being benign: “Our results may lead to a paradigm shift resulting in less surgery for non-cancerous ovarian cysts – on condition that trained ultrasound examiners reliably exclude cancer.”

Marie-Claire Platt, head of campaigns at Ovarian Cancer Action, said: “These research findings could save women with benign ovarian cysts from unnecessary major surgery, avoiding the risk of short and long-term surgical complications.

“However, we need to ensure these women receive appropriate and regular surveillance, in case a cyst is misdiagnosed and is in fact ovarian cancer.

“Both benign cysts and ovarian cancer can present in the same way, with symptoms such as bloating and pelvic pain. If you are persistently experiencing these symptoms, visit your GP immediately.”

Find out more about ovarian cancer and its symptoms.