Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A cyst on your ovary may be found during a pelvic exam. If a cyst is suspected, doctors often advise further testing to determine its type and whether you need treatment.

Typically, doctors address several questions to determine a diagnosis and to aid in management decisions:

  • Size. What size is it?
  • Composition. Is it filled with fluid, solid or mixed? Fluid-filled cysts aren't likely to be cancerous. Those that are solid or mixed — filled with fluid and solid — may require further evaluation to determine if cancer is present.

To identify the type of cyst, your doctor may perform the following procedures:

  • Pregnancy test. A positive pregnancy test may suggest that your cyst is a corpus luteum cyst, which can develop when the ruptured follicle that released your egg reseals and fills with fluid.
  • Pelvic ultrasound. In this painless procedure, a wand-like device (transducer) is used to send and receive high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound). The transducer can be moved over your abdomen and inside your vagina, creating an image of your uterus and ovaries on a video screen. This image can then be photographed and analyzed by your doctor to confirm the presence of a cyst, help identify its location and determine whether it's solid, filled with fluid or mixed.
  • Laparoscopy. Using a laparoscope — a slim, lighted instrument inserted into your abdomen through a small incision — your doctor can see your ovaries and remove the ovarian cyst.
  • CA 125 blood test. Blood levels of a protein called cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) often are elevated in women with ovarian cancer. If you develop an ovarian cyst that is partially solid and you are at high risk of ovarian cancer, your doctor may test the level of CA 125 in your blood to determine whether your cyst could be cancerous. Elevated CA 125 levels can also occur in noncancerous conditions, such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Jul. 29, 2011