An overview of common gynaecological conditions
Click below to learn more about each gynaecological condition.
The ovaries are two small organs, about the size and shape of an almond. There is one on either side of the womb (uterus), and they form part of the female reproductive system. The ovaries have two main functions:
Ovarian cysts can also be caused by an underlying condition, such as endometriosis. This occurs when cells that normally grow inside the womb develop on the outside and attach to the ovaries, resulting in a cyst.
Most ovarian cysts are non-cancerous (benign). However, a small number are cancerous (malignant). Cancerous cysts are more common if you have been through the menopause.
A small number of women may develop a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome. This occurs when the ovaries contain a large number of small cysts, which causes the ovaries to enlarge. If left untreated, polycystic ovaries can cause infertility.
Functional cysts are non-cancerous (benign) and are usually harmless. Occasionally, they can cause symptoms, such as pelvic pain. However, most disappear in a few months without needing any treatment.
Pathological cysts are caused by abnormal cell growth. They are not related to the menstrual cycle and can develop before and after the menopause.
Pathological cysts develop from either cells that have been used to create eggs or cells that cover the outer part of the ovary. Occasionally, these cysts can burst or grow large enough to block the blood supply to the ovaries.
Typically, pathological cysts are non-cancerous, however, a small number are cancerous.
In some cases, ovarian cysts are caused by an underlying condition, such as endometriosis. This occurs when the tissue that normally lines the womb starts to form outside it, such as in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, bowel, vagina or rectum. Ovarian cysts do not normally indicate an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
A ruptured ovarian cyst usually occurs when it has become so big that it starts to press on nearby nerves or organs due to its size. If an ovarian cyst bursts, you are likely to feel intense pain and experience internal bleeding.
If you do need treatment then this will depend on several factors, such as the size and appearance of the cyst or whether you have had the menopause.
In most cases, the doctor will take a watchful waiting course of action. This means that you will not have any immediate treatment, other than an ultrasound a few weeks later to check whether the cyst has gone.
Your doctor may recommend you to have regular ultrasound scans and blood tests if you have been through the menopause. If the scans show that the cyst is still there then surgery will be an option to remove it. Surgery may also be recommended if there is a possibility that the cyst could be cancerous.
There are two types of surgical procedures that can be performed to remove ovarian cysts. These are:
Laparoscopy: This is a type of keyhole surgery, where small cuts are made in your abdomen. A small tube-shaped microscope with a light on the end is then inserted through the incision. The cyst is then removed. The wound is closed using dissolvable stitches.
Laparotomy: This procedure is used for larger cysts or for cysts that may be cancerous, and it involves making a larger incision into the abdomen. The cyst and ovary may be removed for further testing. The wound is closed using staples or stitches.
Both procedures are performed under a general anaesthetic.
If the test results show that the cyst is cancerous then you will have further treatments, such as surgery to remove the ovaries and surrounding tissue.
Women's Health Matters 2021 provides a comprehensive analysis of ten of the most common gynaecological conditions misdiagnosed or misunderstood for years at a time. Infertility, debilitating chronic pain, the onset of associated conditions and severe depression are common effects of living with a gynaecological condition without access to the right care. Yet despite this, education and awareness around women’s health is lacking.
Millions of women in the UK continue to suffer in silence while waiting for a diagnosis, unsure of how best to manage their pain or seek help.
The aim of this Women's Health Matters is to tackle taboos in women's health by sharing the hard-hitting stories of other women living with these conditions, as well as: