Thousands of women are undergoing needless risky surgery to remove ovarian cysts, research suggests.
Up to 80 per cent of cases resolved themselves within two years without an operation, a study led by Imperial College found.
Researchers said the ‘watchful waiting’ approach – in which ultrasound scans are used to make sure the cyst is not growing – could be far more widely used to avoid the risks of surgery.
Ovarian cysts are common and usually cause no symptoms, but in some cases can trigger pelvic pain and bloating.
The new study, published in the Lancet Oncology journal, reveals the risks of cysts causing problems has been hugely overstated.
The researchers tracked nearly 2,000 women from ten different countries, including the UK, in the largest trial of ‘watchful waiting’ ever undertaken.
Professor Tom Bourne, from Imperial College London, said: ‘Our results may lead to a paradigm shift resulting in less surgery for non-cancerous ovarian cysts – on condition that trained ultrasound examiners reliably exclude cancer.’