5 things you need to know about ovarian cysts

It's officially Endometriosis Awareness Month. As well as raising awareness about endometriosis, we’ll be focusing on other painful and debilitating health conditions that affect women, such as ovarian cysts.

Here are the top five things you need to know about ovarian cysts. 

1. Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs on your ovaries 

To begin, what is an ovarian cyst? An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can develop on your ovaries. 

There are two types of ovarian cysts: functional ovarian cysts and pathological ovarian cysts. According to the NHS, functional ovarian cysts are linked to your menstrual cycle. 
 
During your menstrual cycle, an egg is normally released once a month during ovulation. Each egg inside your ovaries develops inside a structure called a follicle. This follicle contains a fluid that protects the egg as it grows.   
 
When an egg is released as part of your menstrual cycle, the fluid in the follicle bursts and your egg travels down the fallopian tubes. Here, your egg may be fertilised by sperm or reabsorbed by the body.  

However, sometimes a follicle does not release your egg, discharge its protective fluid or shrink after the egg has been released. This can cause the follicle to swell and develop into an ovarian cyst. This is known as a functional ovarian cyst and is the most common type of ovarian cyst.   

The other type of ovarian cyst is a pathological cyst. These cysts are caused by abnormal cell growth and are not related to your menstrual cycle. Pathological ovarian cysts can sometimes burst or increase in size, which can block the blood supply to your ovaries.  

2. Sometimes, ovarian cysts require surgery 

But, are ovarian cysts dangerous? The NHS states functional ovarian cysts are usually not dangerous. But you might experience symptoms such as pelvic pain. In most cases, functional ovarian cysts disappear after a few months and do not require any treatment. 
 
On the other hand, pathological cysts can be dangerous if they are malignant (cancerous). You will need to have surgery to remove these. Up to 10% of women in the UK will undergo surgery in their lifetime to treat an ovarian cyst or mass.  

3. Ovarian cyst pain varies 

“Do ovarian cysts cause pain?” is a question that is often asked by women.

Ovarian cysts are extremely common and usually only cause symptoms if they are large, block the blood flow to the ovaries or burst.

If this is the case, an ovarian cyst can cause pain in the pelvic area (lower abdomen) and during sex.

A woman uses heat therapy to treat pelvic pain from ovarian cysts.

The pain can range from a dull and heavy feeling in your pelvic area to sudden and severe pain.   

4. Ovarian cysts might cause vaginal bleeding 

Can ovarian cysts cause bleeding? If an ovarian cyst ruptures, it may cause bleeding that will need to be treated through surgery. But this rarely happens.  

more alarming complication that can happen if you have larger ovarian cysts, is an ovarian torsion. Ovarian torsion occurs when your ovary becomes twisted around the ligaments that support it.

As a result, it can block the blood supply to your ovary and immediate surgery is needed to save the ovary.    

5. Laparoscopy is used to remove most ovarian cysts 

The NHS states most ovarian cysts usually do not require treatment, as they disappear on their own after a few months. Your GP may recommend an ultrasound scan to confirm if a cyst has gone.    

If there are concerns that an ovarian cyst might be cancerous or become cancerous, surgery is strongly advised. Surgery is also recommended for large or persistent ovarian cysts.   

Laparoscopy
 is used to remove most ovarian cysts. During a laparoscopy, small cuts are made on your abdomen. These cuts allow your surgeon to pass a laparoscope or small tube with a light into your abdomen.
 
The surgeon will then remove the cyst through the small cuts in your skin. These are closed afterwards with dissolvable stitches.   

 

A female patient after receiving a laparoscopy to remove ovarian cysts.
 
laparoscopy uses small incisions and has a faster recovery time. In most cases, it does not require you to stay overnight at a hospital. 
 
But if your cyst is large or could be cancerous, a laparotomy is recommended. Your surgeon will use a single, large cut to access and remove the cyst and your ovary may be removed. Afterwards, the cyst will be sent to a laboratory to confirm if it is cancerous. A laparotomy will require you to stay in the hospital for a couple of days.   

If you are concerned you might have an ovarian cyst or your symptoms are causing severe pain, our specialist Consultants at Circle Health Group can help confirm a diagnosis. Our Consultant gynaecologists can speak to you about your symptoms, provide a diagnosis and discuss possible treatments. 

If you would like to get in touch with a Consultant, please contact our team by calling us on 0808 101 0337 or through our online enquiry form.    


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