An ovarian cyst is a pouch or sac that forms in or on the ovary. It is filled with fluid or other tissue. Ovarian cysts are very common and can occur in women during childbearing years or after menopause. In the majority of cases, ovarian cysts are benign, meaning that are not cancerous, and they go away on their own without treatment. Rarely, a cyst may be malignant, or cancerous.
In many instances, ovarian cysts do not cause symptoms. This is why it is important to have routine pelvic exams. However, in those that do experience symptoms from ovarian cysts, they report a dull or sharp ache in the abdomen or pain during certain activities. Larger cysts can cause twisting of the ovary, which leads to pain on one side that comes and goes or starts suddenly. A cyst that bleeds or bursts may also cause severe, sudden pain.
There are different types of ovarian cysts that include the following:
Teratoma – a cyst containing different kinds of tissues that make up the body, such as hair and skin. These cysts may be present at birth and can grow during reproductive years. In rare cases, some teratomas may become cancerous.
Functional – the most common type of ovarian cyst. They usually have no symptoms and often go away without treatment, within six to eight weeks.
Endometrioma – a cyst resulting from endometriosis – a condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus is found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and other pelvic structures.
Cystadenoma – cysts that form on the outer surface of the ovary. These can grow to be very large but are usually benign.
There are several treatment options for ovarian cysts. Your healthcare provider at Greenville Women’s Clinic can determine the best treatment for you based on the type of cyst and other factors. Common treatment options include watchful waiting and, if the cyst is large or causing symptoms, surgery.
Watchful Waiting – monitoring the cyst with repeated ultrasound exams to note any changes in appearance or size. Many cysts go away on their own after one or two menstrual cycles.
Surgery – may be recommended if the cyst is large, causing symptoms or is suspected to be cancerous. The type of surgery is dependent on several factors including, the size of the cyst, your age, your desire to have children, and your family history of ovarian or breast cancer. A cystectomy is the removal of the cyst from the ovary. In some cases, the ovary itself may need to be removed – this is called an oophorectomy.
If the cyst is benign and not too large, a minimally invasive surgery using a laparoscope is often recommended. In other cases, an open surgery may be required. This surgery involves making a small incision in the lower abdomen.
If you have questions or concerns regarding ovarian cysts, do not hesitate to contact your trusted healthcare provider at Greenville Women’s Clinic.