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Ovarian Cysts

What is an ovarian cyst?
What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?
How are ovarian cysts diagnosed?
How are ovarian cysts treated?

What is an ovarian cyst?

  • Is a pouch filled with fluid or other tissue that forms on the ovary
    • They are common in women during their childbearing years
    • A woman can develop one or more cysts
    • They can vary in size
    • In most cases, cysts are harmless and go away on their own
    • In other cases, they may cause problems and need treatment
    • There are different types of ovarian cysts
    • Most cysts are benign (not cancerous)
    • Rarely, a few cysts may turn out to be malignant (cancerous)

What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?

  • Most cysts are small and do not cause symptoms
  • Some cysts may cause a dull or sharp ache in the abdomen and pain during certain activities
  • Larger cysts may cause torsion (twisting) of the ovary that causes pain
  • Cysts that bleed or rupture may lead to serious problems requiring prompt treatment

How are ovarian cysts diagnosed?

  • May be found during a routine pelvic exam
  • If an enlarged ovary is observed, tests may be recommended to provide more information:
    • Vaginal ultrasound
      • Uses sound waves to create pictures of internal organs
      • A slender instrument called a transducer is placed in the vagina
      • Sound waves show the shape, size, location, and makeup of the cyst
    • Laparoscopy
      • A thin tube with a camera is inserted into the abdomen to view the pelvic organs
      • Laparoscopy also can be used to treat cysts
    • Blood tests
      • If you are past menopause, you may be given a test that measures the amount of a substance called CA 125
      • Increased CA 125 level may be a sign of ovarian cancer
      • In premenopausal women, an increased CA 125 level can be caused by many other conditions besides cancer
        • This test is not a good indicator of ovarian cancer in premenopausal women

How are ovarian cysts treated?

  • Birth control pills may be prescribed
    • This will not make cysts you already have go away
    • But will prevent new cysts from forming
  • Surgery may be suggested if your cyst is large or causing symptoms
  • The extent and type of surgery that is needed depends on several factors:
    • Size and type of cyst
    • Your age
    • Your symptoms
    • Your desire to have children
    • Sometimes, a cyst can be removed without having to remove the ovary
      • This surgery is called cystectomy
    • In other cases, one or both of the ovaries may have to be removed
    • Your doctor may not know which procedure is needed until after the surgery begins