What Are Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts are fairly common, especially in women of childbearing age. Ovarian cysts are usually benign and generally do not lead to infertility.

However, there are some types if cysts that have been associated with some cancers. This is why it is important to see your doctor if your experience symptoms of ovarian cysts.

Types of ovarian cysts

Functional cysts – before ovulation, the ovaries develop the eggs which will be released inside small fluid-filled sacs called functional cysts. When the egg is ready to be released, the sac bursts, releasing the egg and letting the cyst to be reabsorbed by the body. However, there are instances where the sac did not burst on time and continued instead into a follicular crust. This type of cyst usually goes away on its own, within 1-3 months.

Corpus luteum – unlike follicular cysts, a corpus luteum cyst forms when a sac that did burst and release an egg was not reabsorbed by the body. Instead it allowed fluid to build inside it. Corpus luteum can grow to almost 4 inches and may twist in the, causing pain or even bleeding. Ovulation-inducing medications like Clomid may increase your risks of developing a corpus luteum cyst. This type of cyst though, is rarely linked to cancer.

Cystadenomas – cystadenomas develop on the outside surface of the ovary. Just like a blister, cystadenomas are usually filled with a watery like fluid or a thick gel. These type of cysts generally grow big and can be really painful/

Endometriomas – these types of cysts grow in women who have endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition which causes the tissues from the uterus lining to grow outside of the uterus. The tissue may attach to the ovary and form a cyst. Endometriomas can cause pain during intercourse and menstruation.

Polycystic Ovaries – more commonly known as a Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), this condition is characterized by the ovary’s failure to create the hormones necessary for eggs to mature. PCOS starts just like functional cysts, but the eggs inside never develop enough to be released, so naturally ovulation does not occur. Due to this, the body stops producing progesterone, causing the menstrual cycle to become irregular to halt completely. PCOS also produce male hormones which continue to inhibit ovulation as well as a host of other symptoms.

Dermoid cysts – these types of cysts are considered to be benign tumor, these usually benign growths use cells and genetic knowledge from the ovary to grow tissues such as teeth, bones and hair. Dermoid cysts can cause the ovary to twist, which can be very painful. If not detected and treated early, the risk of rupture is great.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts

Women with ovarian cysts experience severe symptoms of this condition, while others hardly display any symptoms at all. For those who displayed symptoms of ovarian cysts, the following are the most common symptoms reported by patients:

  • Abdomen feels full
  • A feeling of pressure in the abdomen
  • Abdominal pain
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Dull ache in the lower back and thighs
  • Painful periods
  • Abnormal periods or abnormal bleeding
  • Problem passing urine completely
  •  Irregular (or very few) menstrual periods or absence of period altogether
  • Tender breasts
  • Sudden weight gain.

  

Diagnosis

Ovarian cysts are usually discovered by doctors during routine pelvic exams, when a patient feels the swelling on her ovaries. After detecting the cysts, the doctor will then perform an ultrasound which allows him to view the location, size and shape of the cyst. Other tests such as hormone tests, pregnancy tests, etc. may also be performed.

Treatment

Non-cancerous cysts are usually left for about 3 months to find out if they’ve grown. If after several months the cyst hasn’t gone away, the doctor may want to remove it. Some of treatment options include:

  • Surgery. If your cyst did not go away, grew, appear odd on the ultrasound or if you are perimenopausal, your doctor may perform any of the following procedures:
    • Laparoscopy – if the cyst looks small and benign on the ultrasound, your doctor will make a tiny incision above or below your navel and insert an instrument that works like a telescope into it. If the cyst appeared the same way it did in the ultrasound, your doctor will remove it. A laparoscopy is performed under general anesthesia.
    • Laparotomy – if the cysts are benign and appear suspicious, your doctor may perform a laparotomy. Under general anesthesia, your doctor will create a bigger incision on your stomach, and have the cyst examined. If the cyst is found cancerous, your doctor may have to remove your ovaries and other tissues that may be affected.
  • Birth control pills – women with persistent, benign ovarian cysts may be prescribed to take birth control pills to prevent ovulation, granting of course that they are not planning to get pregnant. Without ovulation, the chances of cysts growing are lowered.

  

Unlike cervical precancers, there is no way to prevent ovarian cysts. The best you can do is to have your exams regularly and live healthy. If you think that you have ovarian cysts, see your doctor immediately to know for sure, and to find out if the cysts are the cause of your symptoms.