July 7, 2022 11:54 am
Ovarian cysts are fairly common, with many women experiencing them at some point in life. But just because they’re common doesn’t mean they’re well-understood or familiar. Would you know the signs of ovarian cysts?
It’s a bit of a trick question. In some cases, when women develop small ovarian cysts, they may not experience any noticeable symptoms. But there are some symptoms you can look for if you suspect a cyst.
What Are Ovarian Cysts?
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop on or in an ovary. Ovarian cysts can occur in women of all ages, including during the childbearing years and after menopause.
Most ovarian cysts are benign, or noncancerous. There are different types of ovarian cysts, with “functional ovarian cysts” being the most common. Functional cysts are those that form during the menstrual cycle, and these cysts typically go away on their own within two months.
There are three other types of noncancerous ovarian cysts:
- Cystadenoma, which are filled with watery fluid and form on the outside surface of the ovary
- Endometrioma, which form as a result of endometriosis, where uterine tissue grows outside the uterus
- Teratoma, which can be present at birth and contain tissue and hair
While the majority of ovarian cysts are harmless, some cysts can be cancerous. For this reason, it’s important to see a doctor if you believe you may have an ovarian cyst.
The Symptoms of an Ovarian Cyst
In many cases, small ovarian cysts won’t cause any symptoms. But larger cysts may cause a variety of symptoms, primarily affecting the pelvic area.
Symptoms of an ovarian cyst may include:
- Breast tenderness
- Difficulty emptying the bladder or bowel
- Discomfort in the lower abdomen that can be either dull or sharp
- Increased urination
- Painful intercourse
- Pain in the lower back or thighs
- Pelvic pressure
- Unexplainable weight gain
Many of these symptoms are also common with other health conditions, which is why it’s important to have them checked by a doctor to ensure a proper diagnosis.
Though rare, a cyst may sometimes rupture or twist—causing sudden pain along with nausea and vomiting. These are considered emergency medical issues and prompt medical care is needed.
How Ovarian Cysts Are Diagnosed and Treated
If your OB-GYN suspects you have an ovarian cyst, he or she will conduct a pelvic exam, palpating the area to check for a cyst, and then order an ultrasound to confirm a diagnosis. Blood tests and other imaging scans, such as a CT scan, may also be used to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan.
In some cases, particularly when an ovarian cyst causes no symptoms, a “watch-and-wait” approach may be taken. This involves waiting to see if the cyst goes away on its own and gauging its status with regular checkups.
For women who experience multiple ovarian cysts or who have polycystic ovary syndrome, which causes the growth of ovarian cysts, oral contraceptives may be recommended to inhibit ovulation and prevent future cysts.
If a cyst doesn’t go away on its own or symptoms linger or worsen, surgical removal of the cyst may be recommended. This is typically done through laparoscopy, performed through a small incision around the belly button. Larger cysts or those that may be cancerous are usually removed using a laparotomy, which involves a larger incision in the abdomen.
The Magnolia Women’s Center at Magnolia Regional Health Center offers expert women’s health services for women of all ages and stages of life.
This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center