Nabothian cysts are fluid-filled cysts often seen on the surface of the cervix. They are also called nabothian follicles or mucinous retention cysts. They are usually up to 1cm in size, but rarely can be more extensive. They are harmless and unrelated to cervical cancer.
The columnar epithelium of the endocervix (the canal) produces cervical mucus. When the squamous epithelium of the ectocervix slightly covers the mucus-secreting columnar epithelium, the mucus becomes trapped and forms a cyst. This can happen after childbirth, minor trauma to the cervix or cervicitis secondary to infection.
Nabothian cysts are often found incidentally on a speculum examination. They do not typically cause any symptoms. Rarely, when they are very large, they may cause a feeling of fullness in the pelvis.
Nabothian cysts appear as smooth rounded bumps on the cervix, usually near to os (opening). They can range in size from 2mm to 30mm, and have a whitish or yellow appearance.
TOM TIP: It is worth becoming familiar with photographs of nabothian cysts. They are relatively common. They can have a raised and discoloured appearance, creating concern when you first see them. With practice, you will be able to identify them correctly, and the woman can be reassured. Getting a senior opinion if there is any doubt creates a feedback loop that helps you confirm your impression and build your confidence in making the correct diagnosis.
Where the diagnosis is clear, women can be reassured, and no treatment is required. They do not cause any harm and often resolve spontaneously.
If the diagnosis is uncertain, women can be referred for colposcopy to examine in detail. Occasionally they may be excised or biopsied to exclude other pathology. Rarely they may be treated during colposcopy to relieve symptoms.
Last updated June 2020