I have an ovarian cyst – what now?  

cramping, pain, fetal position, ovarian cystIf you have been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, one of the first things you should know is that you’re not alone. In fact, many women develop these cysts at some point throughout their life, but in most cases never even know that one has come and gone. While there can be complications related to ovarian cysts, in most cases there isn’t cause for real concern. Here are some of the things that every woman should know about ovarian cysts, why they occur and what you need to do if you’ve been diagnosed with one.

What exactly is an ovarian cyst and which are the most common?

A cyst, in general, is a fluid filled pocket or sac that can occur pretty much anywhere in the body. Ovarian cysts are specifically on or within the surface of the ovaries. Sometimes also referred to as “functional cysts”, the two most frequently occurring ovarian benign (non-cancerous) cysts are these:

  • Follicle Cysts– A follicle is the small sac in which an egg grows and matures during a normal menstrual cycle. Typically, once the egg is fully mature, the follicle breaks and releases the it. A follicle cyst is what can happen if the follicle does not break and the egg remains inside. These cysts usually go away without treatment within three months and usually have no symptoms, meaning most women who develop them never even know they were there
  • Corpus Luteum Cysts – Corpus luteum is the group of cells that produce hormones needed to prepare an egg for ovulation and preparation of the uterine lining for a fertilized eff to implant. They are made from the follicle sac that is shed during ovulation. A corpus luteum cyst is what forms if the follicle sac that has been shed doesn’t shrink, but instead seals itself back up, trapping fluid inside. Corpus luteum cysts can grow to be three to four inches wide, and because of their side may cause some pain and bleeding, but they usually go away without treatment or symptoms within a few weeks of developing.

Other Benign Ovarian Cysts

There are a few other benign ovarian cysts that occur less commonly, including the following:

  • Dermoid– This type of cyst develops from cells that are already present in the body from birth. They typically have no symptoms.  It is possible for these cysts to contain hair, fat or teeth.
  • Cystadenomas – These cysts can be fluid filled and form from cells on the surface of the ovaries.

 

How are ovarian cysts treated?

There are several factors that are taken into consideration when your doctor is determining the treatment of your ovarian cyst. Your age, your possible symptoms and the size and type of your cyst all play a part in deciding what treatment will be most effective for you.

  • Observation and Re-examination

Because many ovarian cysts present no symptoms and are found during routine pelvic examinations, most often your doctor will simply schedule a follow up appointment within a few months to re-examine you and ensure that the cysts have gone away on their own unless you suddenly develop symptoms.

  • Birth Control Pills

Another common treatment plan is taking oral contraceptives, which can reduce both the chance of any new cyst development and over time, the risk of ovarian cancer.

  • Surgical Removal

If your doctor has discovered a cyst that is painful, large, continues to grow and doesn’t recede on its own through the course of two or more menstrual cycles, or has characteristics that are unusual for a functional cyst, your doctor might want to remove it surgically. This may be done without the removal of the affected ovary in some cases, but in others, the entire ovary must be removed.

Malignant ovarian cysts are not very common, so in most cases, even with the presence of uncomfortable or painful symptoms, you probably don’t need to be concerned if your doctor finds an ovarian cyst. The best course of action whether you’ve been diagnosed with a cyst or not is to keep up with your regular pelvic exams. The earlier your doctor can locate, diagnose and treat any developing ovarian cyst, the less likely it is to cause any symptoms or other possible complications in the future.