Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Ovarian Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Removing Benign Ovarian Cysts Does Not Affect Cancer Risk

WebMD Health News

March 23, 2000 (Lake Tahoe, Calif.) -- Removing noncancerous ovarian cysts does not seem to reduce a woman's risk of dying of ovarian cancer, according to a new study by researchers in London. The study, published in the March 25 issue of The Lancet, found that women who had these cysts removed were statistically no more or less likely to die of ovarian cancer than other types of malignancies, including breast, cervical, colorectal, or lung cancer.

The benign cysts were detected by ultrasonography -- the use of sound waves to create an image of an internal organ, in this case the ovaries. For women who are not at high risk of developing ovarian cancer, the study raises doubts about the benefit of detecting cysts that aren't causing symptoms. For women at high risk of this cancer, though, experts who spoke with WebMD advise having the test regularly. A woman's age and her family and reproductive history help determine her likelihood of developing this disease; women should ask their doctors if they're at risk.

"This research suggests that most benign cysts in middle-aged women would probably do no harm if they were left in place. But there is still a problem in trying to distinguish them from the malignant ones," lead researcher Timothy J. B. Crawford, MD, tells WebMD. "In the right hands, ultrasound is good at distinguishing benign from malignant cysts without need for an operation," he says. But in a small number of cases, he says, patients still need surgery in which the cyst is removed and examined under a microscope.

"I think the technology and the skill of the [doctors who perform] ultrasonography is evolving. We are better able to judge benign vs. malignant than we were years ago. However, it is still not a perfect tool," says Diane Bodurka-Bevers, MD, who reviewed the study for WebMD.

In the study, more than 5,000 women who had participated in an ultrasound screening trial for early ovarian cancer in the 1980s were followed for an average of 15 years by researchers at Guy's, King's and St. Thomas' School of Medicine in London.

Today on WebMD

Ovarian cancer illustration
What are the symptoms?
doctory with x-ray
Get to know the Symptoms.
cancer cell
HPV is the top cause. Find out more.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
Integrative Medicine Cancer Quiz
Lifestyle Tips for Depression Slideshow
Screening Tests for Women
Graphic of ovaries within reproductive system
Ovarian Cancer Marker
Pets Improve Your Health
Vitamin D
Healthy meal with salmon