WHAT ARE THEY?
A cyst is a non-cancerous fluid-filled sac, similar to a blister. Ovarian cysts are found on the ovaries, the small organs on either side of the uterus that produce female sex hormones and release an egg during the menstrual cycle. Ovarian cysts are generally harmless. Some cysts may cause some pelvic pain. They occur most often during the reproductive years. They’re rare in women who have reached menopause.
TYPES OF OVARIAN CYSTS
Different types of cysts develop from different types of cells. The most common type is the functional ovarian cyst. Generally after ovulation the empty follicle becomes the corpus luteum, which dissolves if no pregnancy occurs. If the corpus luteum doesn’t dissolve, a functional cyst may be formed.
Since there are generally no symptoms, a cyst is often found during a routine pelvic examination. Further tests may be needed to make sure that it is indeed a harmless functional cyst and not a more serious growth such as ovarian cancer.
Tests may include a blood test to identify infection. If a cyst is detected, an ultrasound or laparoscopy can confirm the diagnosis. Most cysts will go away by themselves in two or three menstrual cycles. If not, your doctor can prescribe hormones or surgery. Surgery may be necessary if the cyst is causing problems, if it’s larger than two inches in diameter, or if the woman is postmenopausal. The surgical removal of one or both ovaries is call an oophorectomy, which may be performed to treat certain types of endometriosis or ovarian cysts. Birth control pills control the growth of some cysts, which improves symptoms and prevents the formation of new cysts.
(If you experience any of these symptoms call your doctor.)
- sense of fullness or pressure or a dull ache in the abdomen
- pain during intercourse
- painful, irregular or delayed periods
- swelling of the lower abdomen, usually firm and painless
- sudden, sharp pain in the lower abdomen
- severe and sudden abdominal pain with a fever and sometimes vomiting