By: Shelagh McNally for Fibroids1
You’ve just been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst found by your doctor during your annual routine pelvic exam. Don’t panic. Most cysts will disappear on their own.
Nearly every woman between puberty and menopause develops an ovarian cyst at some point in her life. Functional cysts are created from follicles that develop in the ovaries just before ovulation – named because they developed during the normal functioning of your menstrual cycle and are not disease-related. Functional cysts rarely become larger than six centimeters.
|Looking for Symptoms|
Is it a cyst? Some common symptoms to be on the look out for include:
Pressure, fullness, or pain in the abdomen
Dull ache in the lower back and thighs
Problems passing urine completely
Pain during sexual intercourse
Painful menstrual periods and abnormal bleeding
Nausea or vomiting
There are two different types of functional cysts. A follicular cyst is created when the follicle doesn’t respond to the surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) release by the pituitary gland. This LH signals the follicle to rupture and release its egg. Instead, the over-zealous follicle that just keeps growing fills up with fluid and turns into a functional cyst follicle. Follicular cysts rarely cause pain and usually disappear within two or three menstruation cycles. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a diagnosis of many tiny benign cysts in the ovaries.
A corpus luteum cyst is a bit different. After a follicle has released its egg it transforms into a small temporary endocrine structure called a corpus luteum. This corpus luteum, in anticipation of a pregnancy, keeps producing progesterone. When the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum shuts down, decays and is sloughed off during menstruation. A corpus luteum cyst occurs when the opening where the egg leaves from seals itself off and fills with fluid. Usually there is little pain and they tend to disappear as quickly as they develop. When they do keep growing though, they become enlarged and bleed into a hemorrhagic cyst. Hemorrhagic cysts are more painful since they can put pressure on the ovary causing sharp pain and some bleeding. These types of ovarian cysts are quite common in women who are taking fertility drugs, particularly clomiphene citrate. Again, they usually disappear on their own.
| To learn more about ovarian cysts:|
Contact the National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC) at 800-994-9662 or the following organizations:
Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ), HHS
Phone: (800) 358-9295, Internet Address: click here
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), NIH, HHS
Phone: (800) 370-2943, Internet Address: click here
American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
Internet Address: click here
American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)
Phone: (205) 978-5000, Internet Address: click here
International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc. (INCIID)
Phone: (703) 379-9178, Internet Address: click here
There are three types of non-functional cysts most commonly referred to as tumors. Not because they are cancerous but simply because it’s tissue that is growing. The most bizarre one is the dermoid cyst, also known as benign mature cystic teratomas. The dermoid cyst develops when primitive germ cells, capable of producing eggs and human tissue just keep multiplying. These cysts often contain sebaceous or oil material, cartilage, bone, teeth, tissue and hair. They can range from one to 45 centimeters and are most commonly diagnosed in women between the ages of 20 and 40. Surgery to remove the cyst is recommended since most are usually on the ovary and can cause the ovary to twist or rupture.
Another type, usually found in older women, is the cystadenoma cyst. These are created when cystadenomas cells on the outer surface of the ovary fill with fluid. They tend to be more painful because they can become quite large. Sometimes they turn into a more serious type of cyst called mucinous cystadenoma, filled with a sticky, gelatinous material that seeps into the pelvic and abdominal surfaces causing multiple growths and collections of mucinous fluid. These can be very painful and sometimes can be cancerous. Surgery is recommended only if the cyst continues to grow. Endometrioma cysts develop if a woman already has endometriosis develop and then the tissue fills with blood. They are sometimes referred to as “chocolate cysts” because the old blood turns brown. They are not cancerous but they can be painful. However, they do not worsen the pain from endometriosis.
An ultrasound is usually ordered to determine the shape, size and location of your cyst. Your doctor may order and pregnancy test, hormone test as well as the blood test CA-125 for women over 35 to determine if the cyst is cancerous. The usual treatment is to re-examine the cyst in three months to see if there are any changes. If the cyst has not gone away after several menstrual periods, causes pain, gotten larger or changed shape, then the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the cyst. Small cysts can be removed with a laparoscopy under general anesthesia. Larger cysts may need to be removed via a laparotomy, a procedure that involves making an incision in the stomach to remove the cyst. Some doctors may prescribe the birth control pill to prevent ovulation and lower the chance of forming new cysts.
If you have been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, don’t panic. Be patient and let nature take its course. Chances are within 60 to 90 days your cyst will be gone. Most importantly, keep up with your annual exams to ensure that if there is serious a problem, it will be detected and treated in time.