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An ovarian cyst is any collection of fluid enclosed by an extremely thin membrane (wall), within an ovary. Ovarian cysts vary in size from as small as a pea to bigger than an orange.
Nearly all ovarian cysts are small and will not produce any symptoms.
Sometimes a large cyst ruptures or blocks an artery supplying blood to the ovary which can trigger an abrupt, severe pain.
If the cyst is large enough to cause twisting of the ovary, you will have pain with nausea and vomiting.
Other less frequent symptoms include:
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during sex
- Frequent need to urinate
- Unexplained weight gain
- Pain during your period
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Breast tenderness
- A dull ache in the lower back and thigh
The ovaries are two small organs found on both sides of the uterus in a woman’s body. The ovaries produce hormones, like estrogen, which regulate menstruation. Each month, the ovaries generate an egg. The egg finds its way down the fallopian tube to be potentially fertilized by a sperm. This cycle of egg release is called ovulation. See figure below.
Types of Ovarian Cysts
There are many types of ovarian cysts. The most common is a functional cyst which develops during ovulation. This development occurs when either the egg is not released or the sac (follicle), in which the egg develops, does not dissolve after the egg is released.
Other cysts are:
- Polycystic ovaries. The sac wherein the egg matures fails to open and develops into a cyst. This condition is called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
- Endometriosis. When tissue from the lining (endometrium) of the uterus grows in the ovary, it can cause pain and influence fertility.
- Cystadenomas. These cysts form on the surface of the ovary and are usually fluid-filled.
- Dermoid cysts. This kind of cyst consists of tissue identical to tissues in other parts of the body.
When to See a Doctor
The following symptoms are considered a medical emergency and you should seek medical help immediately:
- Sudden, severe abdominal pain
- Pain with fever and vomiting
- Faintness, dizziness, or weakness
- Rapid breathing
If you have a cyst, these symptoms may reflect a ruptured cyst. Once in a while, a large, ruptured cyst causes heavy bleeding.
If you are experiencing symptoms of ovarian cysts, consult your doctor. Your doctor will do a pelvic exam to feel for any swelling on your ovary. If a cyst is located, your doctor will either watch and wait or obtain more tests to facilitate treatment plans.
Additional tests may include:
- Ultrasound to locate the cyst and determine shape, size, and consistency.
- Pregnancy test to exclude pregnancy
- Hormone level test
- A blood test to rule out cancer
Is Surgery Required?
Your cyst may need surgery if you are past menopause or if your cyst:
- Fails to disappear after several menstrual cycles.
- Grows bigger
- Appears unusual on the ultrasound
- Creates pain
If your cyst does not need surgery, your doctor will:
- Discuss with you about pain medications
- Suggest hormonal birth control if you have cyst often. These pills decrease your chances of having more cysts.
Types of Surgeries
If you need surgery, your doctor will either remove only the cyst or the whole ovary.
Surgery can be accomplished in two ways:
- Laparoscopy. This procedure is recommended for a small cyst that appear to be benign on ultrasound. Your doctor, through a small incision above or below your navel, can look inside your pelvic area and remove the cyst using special instruments.
- Laparotomy. If the cyst is large (and may be cancerous), your doctor will perform this procedure. A large incision is made in the abdomen and the cyst is removed and tested for cancer.
Take the first step and contact us through our no-cost virtual consultation. During this process, we will recommend options that will work best for you. Every client is different, so our virtual consultants and surgeons tailor the procedure to match each person’s needs.