What are the causes of cysts, fibroids and polyps?

Q: What are the causes for cysts, fibroids and polyps? Are there any ways in which we can prevent them?

A: Ovarian cysts are fluid filled sacs. Most ovarian cysts are benign (non-cancerous), but some are cancerous, or may become cancerous over time. Some ovarian cysts may be related to a woman's periods (functional) or while others may be pathological:

  • Endometriotic
    These cysts develop as a result of endometriosis in which uterine cells grow outside the womb. Some of this endometriotic tissue may attach to the ovary and form a cyst.
  • Dermoid cysts
    During embryological development, some cells have the ability to differentiate into hair, skin or teeth. Some of these cells in the ovary still retain this ability after birth because they form from cells that produce human eggs and eventually form cysts comprising these very tissues. They are rarely cancerous.
  • Cystadenomas
    These cysts develop from ovarian tissue and may be filled with a watery liquid or a mucous material. They are mainly benign although may become cancerous.
  • Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) overgrowths of fibrous and smooth muscle tissue of the womb. They are very common in women of reproductive age and rarely cancerous. They may result from hormonal stimulation or may be related to genes as it is more common in some families and certain races (Afro-Caribbean).
  • Endometrial polyps
    Overgrowth of cells in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) leads to the formation of uterine polyps which protrude into the uterine cavity. The exact cause is unknown but its growth is thought to be related to oestrogen stimulation.

Prevention of ovarian cyst, fibroids and endometrial polyps may not always be possible as it really depends on the cause. In some cases, hormonal treatment (eg. the Pill, IUS Mirena, hormonal injections) may be able to suppress their occurrence, growth and spread.

Dr Christopher Ng
Obstetrician gynaecologist
GynaeMD Women's & Rejuvenation Clinic, Camden Medical Centre