Ovarian Cysts: A Review

Cheryl Horlen, PharmD, BCPS


US Pharmacist. 2010;35(7):1-4. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Ovarian cysts are a common cause of surgical procedures and hospitalizations among women worldwide. It has been reported that 5% to 10% of women will undergo surgery for an adnexal mass.[1] Each year in the United States, more than 250,000 women are discharged from the hospital with a diagnosis of ovarian cyst.[2] Because ovarian cysts are common, it is important for pharmacists to be knowledgeable about treatment options and the risk of malignancy.

Ovarian cysts may be classified as either functional ovarian cysts or ovarian cystic neoplasms ( TABLE 1 ).[3,4] The most common functional ovarian cysts are follicular cysts and corpus luteum cysts, which develop as a result of ovulation. It is believed that follicular cysts occur when an ovarian follicle fails to rupture and continues to grow.[3] Corpus luteum cysts may develop when the corpus luteum fails to regress normally after ovulation.[3] Because these cysts occur as a result of normal physiologic processes, they are termed functional cysts. Functional cysts are the most common type of ovarian cyst in premenopausal women.

Ovarian cystic neoplasms are derived from neoplastic growth. They may be categorized into three types based on their cells of origin: surface epithelial cell tumors, germ cell tumors, and sex cord-stromal tumors.[5] The majority of these neoplasms are benign in women of reproductive age, but the risk of malignancy increases in postmenopausal women.[4] As a group, epithelial tumors are the most common ovarian neoplasm; however, the single most common benign ovarian neoplasm is the benign cystic teratoma (also known as dermoid cyst), which is a germ cell tumor.[3] Dermoid cysts are composed mainly of ectodermal tissue, which gives them their characteristic features of sebaceous glands, sweat glands, hair, and teeth.


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