Understanding Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts are not uncommon, although they sound scary. An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms in the ovaries. Most are harmless, while some can be painful and need attention.
What causes ovarian cysts to form?
Ovarian cysts are particularly common during a woman’s childbearing years. Every month during ovulation the ovaries release an egg. These eggs are grown in tiny sacs called follicles. After these sacs release the egg, the sac dissolves turning into corpus luteum, which produces hormones. If the sac does not dissolve, a “functional” cyst will form. In most cases, these cysts disappear within a few months. These cysts are very common and are rarely cancerous, but can cause some discomfort.
Other types of cysts
Other cysts can form as a result of disease or from the egg not being released by the ovaries. These cysts can be large and quite painful. These symptoms, while not experienced with every cyst, are common:
- Pressure, swelling, or abdominal pain
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during sex
- Abnormal bleeding
- Weight gain
Other kinds of ovarian cysts
- Polycystic — These cysts form when the follicles fail to open.
- Endometriosis — In women with endometriosis, tissue from the lining of the uterus grows in other areas of the body, including the ovaries. These cysts can be very painful and can impact a woman’s fertility
- Cystadenomas — Often fluid-filled, these cysts form out of cells on the surface of the ovaries.
- Dermoid — This type of cyst contains tissue similar to that found in other parts of the body, including skin, hair, and teeth.
Diagnosis and treatment
Most ovarian growths are benign, but a small number can be cancerous. That’s why it’s important to have any growths checked.
At the Women’s Health Medical Group we use pelvic exams, ultrasounds, and other imaging tools to diagnose ovarian cysts. Hormone levels also can provide clues.
If surgery is required, we use laparoscopy. This utilizes a thin, light-tipped device that is inserted into your abdomen. If the tumor is identified as cancerous we do not perform the surgery, instead referring the patient to a gynecologic oncologist.
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