Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled or solid sacs found in or on the ovaries. Usually, ovarian cysts are harmless, regularly occurring as the menstrual cycle. However, some women may develop malignant and large cysts.
Most times, the ovarian cysts develop but cause no symptoms, then gradually disappear. Most women can get pregnant when they have ovarian cysts, but when the cyst becomes large, it could affect pregnancy and conception.
What does an ovary look like?
Every woman has two ovaries. The ovaries are small organs, shaped like a bean, and they play a vital role in female reproduction. Each ovary is located at a side of the uterus.
The ovaries release one egg in approximately 28 days within each menstrual cycle. The ovaries are also responsible for the release of the female sex hormones known as progesterone and oestrogen. These hormones play some vital roles in enabling reproduction. The cyst may develop in both of the ovaries at any time within the menstrual cycle, but sometimes, the cyst develops in only one ovary.
When the cysts are abnormally large, the following symptoms may be present.
- Pelvic pain
- Abdominal swelling
If the cysts rupture or block the supply of blood, it may cause heavy bleeding. Other symptoms include painful periods, feeling full after eating a little food, and difficulty in clearing the bowel.
Medically diagnosing ovarian cysts
Two types of ovarian cyst affect women. They include:
- Pathological ovarian cysts-this type of ovarian cyst is not common, and they are growths of abnormal cells.
- Functional ovarian cysts- this is the most common type of ovarian cyst, developing during the menstrual cycle. They usually clear off on their own and are harmless.
A common cause of ovarian cyst is endometriosis. Most times, ovarian cysts are benign and do not lead to cancer, but, in a few cases, the cysts become malignant, causing cancer. Cancerous cysts usually affect women in their menopausal stage.
Ovarian cyst diagnosis
To check for ovarian cyst, a medical professional will perform an ultrasound by placing a probe inside the vagina. If the professional identifies an ovarian cyst, you may need another ultrasound scan within a couple of weeks to monitor the cyst.
An ovarian cyst could be small, about 3mm in size or it could be the size of a melon. A simple ovarian cyst is thin-walled and contains fluid, but the complex ovarian cysts may contain solid mass, blood, and thick fluid.
Simple ovarian cysts are large follicles that continued to grow after the release of eggs from the ovary. When the cysts develop in the endometrioma cells (the cells outside the womb), it is knownendometriomas.
A dermoid cyst may also develop in some women. This occurs when the cyst develops from egg cell found in the ovary. They usually contain fat and hair. If the cyst causes no discomfort and presents no symptoms, there will be no need for treatment, but if the cyst is complex and the symptoms persist, you may need to see a gynaecologist for treatment.
Treatment of an ovarian cyst
A doctor may not suggest immediate removal of the cyst. However, if the cyst becomes bigger or complex, you may need to remove it during surgery. The choice of ovarian cyst treatment usually depends on the appearance and size of the cysts, the symptoms and blood test results. Your gynaecologist will inform you of your treatment option, the benefits and risks of the available options.
- Most times, for a simple cyst with a diameter of less than 5cm, treatment is not necessary. These cysts usually clear off on their own within a couple of months without treatment.
- A simple cyst with a diameter of 5- 7 cm requires the patient to have yearly ultrasounds to check for further increase in size.
- If the simple cyst has a diameter of more than 7cm, the patient may need surgery or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
It is best to consult an experienced gynaecologist to know the suitable treatment option for you. You may need a hysterectomy, laparotomy, or laparoscopy depending on the condition of your uterus or ovaries, the number and size of the cyst.
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