What Are Nabothian Cysts?

Most women have nabothian cysts, small fluid-filled sacs on the cervix. They’re harmless, noncancerous and often don’t require treatment.

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Nabothian cysts are small, harmless cysts on the cervix. They cannot become cancer. The cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus, is covered in mucus glands. When these become blocked, mucus builds up, creating the cyst. Most women have these cysts, and it’s common to have many of them. Nabothian cysts usually pose no health threat and don’t need any treatment in most cases. Rarely, they cause symptoms and may need to be drained. 

Continue reading to learn more about nabothian cysts, including why they appear, how common they are and what you should do if you have them. 

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Nabothian Cysts Symptoms

In most cases, nabothian cysts don’t cause any symptoms. That’s why you likely won’t know whether you have them unless your healthcare provider mentions is after a pelvic exam.

In rarer cases, if you have a very large nabothian cyst, you might experience:

  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pelvis pain
  • Irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Changes to vaginal discharge

Larger cysts can pressure other organs in your pelvis, which might lead to difficulty using the bathroom. It can also cause general pain, discomfort or pressure in the pelvis.


The cervix is covered in mucus glands. These are designed to release cervix mucus, which helps facilitate the movement of sperm toward an egg during fertile periods.  Sometimes, these mucus glands become covered by a type of skin cell called squamous epithelium. When these skin cells cover a mucus gland, mucus builds up behind the skin cell, creating a fluid-filled cyst.

It's common for nabothian cysts to occur. Many people experience multiple nabothian cysts without symptoms.


Nabothian cysts are usually detected incidentally (meaning, on accident) when you have other health procedures. It’s common for healthcare providers to notice nabothian cysts during PAP smears, pelvic exams, transvaginal ultrasounds and even magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Usually, healthcare providers can diagnose a nabothian cyst just by looking at it. Sometimes, they’ll want additional testing to rule out other more severe conditions, like cervical cancer.

Ruling Out Cervical Cancer

Nabothian cysts are benign (noncancerous) and they cannot become cervical cancer. However, sometimes they can be mistaken for cancerous tumors, or make it difficult for healthcare providers to screen for cervical cancer. For example, cysts that burst may make PAP smears less effective at detecting cancer.

If your healthcare provider is concerned about cancer, they might order an MRI. This can help them determine where the cyst is growing. Nabothian cysts are created in the mucus glands, whereas malignant tumors usually originate deeper in your cervical tissue. If the MRI is inconclusive, your healthcare provider might recommend a biopsy to check for cancerous cells. 


Most nabothian cysts don’t need any treatment. However, if your cysts are causing symptoms or interfering with your healthcare provider’s ability to screen for cancer, they might suggest treatment. Pregnant people may need treatment if a healthcare provider is concerned that the cysts might prevent them from delivering vaginally.

Treatment for nabothian cysts involves draining the fluid. Sometimes, this is done by piercing the cyst and allowing fluid to drain out, known as an excision. Your healthcare provider may also recommend:

  • Electrocautery ablation, a process that uses electricity to remove the cyst. 
  • Cryosurgery, a process that uses cold to freeze and remove the cyst. 


The prognosis for nabothian cysts is very positive. There is no chance that this type of cyst can become cancerous. Most people with nabothian cysts never experience symptoms and don’t require any treatment. 


Nabothian cysts are common, harmless cysts on the surface of the cervix. Most women have them and never experience symptoms. Rarely, nabothian cysts can cause symptoms like pain during sex, or interfere with your healthcare provider’s ability to screen for cervical cancer. In those cases, your healthcare provider will likely drain the cyst using a scalpel, electricity or cryosurgery. However, most people with nabothian cysts will never have symptoms or need treatment.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. AlJulaih G.H., Puckett Y. Nabothian cyst. National Center for Biotechnology Information.

  2. Medline Plus. Nabothian cyst. National Library of Medicine.

  3. Barrigon A, et al. Nabothian cyst content: A potential pitfall for the diagnosis of invasive cancer on Pap test cytology. Diagnostic Cytopatholgy. February 2019.

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.