Ovarian Cysts vs. Fibroids: how to tell the difference


The female reproductive system is amazingly complex. That complexity enables it to be the place where human life is formed. Unfortunately, the reproductive system can also become the place where other, less happy, growing entities are formed.

Two of those unwelcome growths are ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids. Both are based in the female reproductive systems; both can cause pain and negatively affect the smooth functioning of other bodily systems.

What is the difference between ovarian cysts and fibroids? How can you tell which one may be affecting you? What is the difference in treatment options?

Let’s take a look into each of these questions and get a clearer understanding of ovarian cysts vs. fibroids.


What are Ovarian Cysts vs. Fibroids?

First off, what they have in common: both ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids are growths in the female reproductive system. They are almost always benign (non-cancerous).

Ovarian cysts and fibroids differ in:

Location. As evident from their name, ovarian cysts occur on the ovaries. Fibroids occur in or on the uterus.

Composition. The most common ovarian cysts are filled with fluid. In contrast, uterine fibroids are solid masses of muscle and fibrous tissue.


How Can You Tell if You Have Ovarian Cysts vs. Fibroids?

The good news is that most ovarian cysts and fibroids are asymptomatic. They arise silently, don’t cause any problems, and disappear on their own.

The bad news is that some ovarian cysts and fibroids can cause painful, disturbing symptoms. And if you’re asking about how you can tell the difference, it’s likely that you’re saddled with a symptomatic cyst or fibroid.

The potential symptoms that ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids have in common include:

  • pelvic pain or pressure
  • abdominal pain or pressure
  • pain during sexual intercourse
  • bloating
  • abdominal enlargement
  • trouble moving one’s bowels
  • frequent urination or the inability to empty one’s bladder
  • heavy or irregular periods

Even with all the symptoms they have in common, uterine fibroids are more likely than ovarian cysts to cause period issues: frequent periods, heavy bleeding – even to the extent where blood loss can cause anemia.

And while both fibroids and cysts can cause abdominal or pelvic pain, pain that is localized to one side is more likely to be the result of an ovarian cyst than a fibroid.

Because of the more delicate ovary structure, a large mass like a cyst can cause the ovary to twist on itself. That can cut off the blood supply to the ovary, causing sudden, severe lower abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.


How Can You Definitely Diagnose Ovarian Cysts vs. Fibroids?

Because the symptoms are so similar, a definitive diagnosis is made using some method of internal imaging, such as:

  • ultrasound (abdominal or transvaginal)
  • MRI (pelvic)

If you suspect that you have ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids, go see your doctor or a reproductive health specialist to investigate.


How Do You Treat Ovarian Cysts vs. Fibroids?

The most common treatment for both ovarian cysts and fibroids is watchful waiting. Especially for ovarian cysts, many cases will resolve themselves on their own.

When a cyst or fibroid is causing significant discomfort or interfering with functionality, more active treatment may be recommended.

Because fibroid growth and symptoms are hormonally influenced, common fibroid treatments are medications that affect or suppress hormone release. Some of these medications are used for birth control and primarily impact fibroid symptoms that involve heavy bleeding. Other hormone medications cause your body to simulate a menopause-like condition, which can both improve symptoms involving heavy bleeding and also shrink the size of the fibroid.

If fibroids do not respond to medication (or if you are interested in getting pregnant in the near future), surgical procedures may be suggested to remove the fibroids. These procedures range from minimally invasive (like hysteroscopic or laparoscopic myomectomies) to open abdominal surgery. Other, non-surgical, procedures are also available, including those that block the blood vessels that are feeding the fibroids or those that administer heat, ultrasound or other types of energy locally to the fibroids itself.

Treatment of ovarian cysts is restricted to a smaller range of mainly surgical options, the most common being laparoscopic cystectomy, a minimally invasive procedure involving very small incisions on the abdomen.


Staying Healthy, Feeling Good

If you do have symptomatic ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids, take care of yourself by seeking professional evaluation and treatment. Cysts and fibroids can give you a tough time, but there are plenty of ways to address them so that you don’t need to suffer needlessly.

Here at Talking Fibroids, our goal is to educate people about Uterine Fibroids and their symptoms. Find out more about us here or Get in contact with us today!

Wishing you good health always!