Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are polycystic ovaries a sign of cancer?"
Female, age 25, just daignosed with PCOS. Do I now have more cancer risk?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can be an overwhelming diagnosis. Your endocrinologist can help manage your condition and answer questions in terms of prognosis and possible complications. PCOS is one of the main causes of abnormal ovulation and increased androgen (male hormone) symptoms in women. This syndrome is a spectrum of disease but the primary characteristics include hyperandrogenism (symptoms of increased testosterone such as increased hair and acne), irregular menstrual cycles, polycystic ovaries, obesity, and insulin resistance. It is important to keep in mind that PCOS is a syndrome and each patient will present differently with varying combinations of these primary characteristics. Because of this, it is often difficult to diagnose. PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women. The other main complications include Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, metabolic syndrome, and possible cardiovascular disease. Specific treatment is aimed at a patient's symptoms. For menstrual irregularity oral contraceptive pills are often used. It is important to treat this aspect of PCOS because persistent anovulation can increase the risk of developing endometrial hyperplasis which is subsequently linked to carcinoma. However, polycystic ovaries are not in themselves a cancer risk; the increased risk comes from not having regular menstruation which can be treated with birth control pills. PCOS can be a scary diagnosis but your endocrinologist can help discuss management and possible complications. The increased cancer risk does not apply to patient who are adequately treated for their menstrual irregularity.