Warning Signs of Ovarian Cysts Every Woman Needs to Know

The ovaries are two small organs located on either side of a woman’s uterus. An ovarian cyst is a sac or pouch filled with fluid or other tissue that forms on the ovary. It is normal for a small cyst to develop on the ovaries. In most cases, cysts are harmless and go away on their own. In other cases, they may cause problems and need treatment.

Signs of Cysts

Most ovarian cysts are small and do not cause symptoms. Some cysts may cause a dull or sharp ache in the abdomen and pain during certain activities. Larger cysts may cause torsion (twisting) of the ovary that causes pain. Cysts that bleed or rupture may lead to serious problems requiring prompt treatment. In rare cases, a cyst may be cancerous. In it’s early stages, ovarian cancer often has no symptoms, so you should be aware of it’s warning signs.

Diagnosis

An ovarian cyst may be found during a routine pelvic exam. If your health care provider finds an enlarged ovary, tests may be recommended to provide more information.

  • Vaginal ultrasound: This procedure uses sound waves to create pictures of the internal organs that can be viewed on a screen. For this test, a slender instrument called a transducer is placed in the vagina. The views created by the sound waves show the shape, size, location and makeup of the cyst.
  • Laparoscopy: In the type of surgery, a laparoscope – a thin tube with a camera – is inserted into the abdomen to view the pelvic organs. Laparoscopy can also be used to treat cysts.
  • Blood tests: If you are past menopause, in addition to an ultrasound exam, you may be given a test that measures the amount of a substance called CA 125 in your blood. An increased CA 125 level may be a sign of ovarian cancer in women past menopause. In premenopausal women, an increased CA 125 level can be caused by many other conditions besides cancer. Therefore, this test is not a good indicator of ovarian cancer in premenopausal women.

If your health care provider thinks that your cyst may be cancer, more tests may be ordered. It may be recommended that you see a doctor who specializes in gynecologic cancer.

Treatment

If your cyst is not causing any symptoms, your health care provider may simply monitor it for 1 – 2 months and check to see whether it has changed in size. Most functional cysts go away on their own after one or two menstrual cycles. If you are past menopause and have concerns about cancer, your health care provider may recommend regular ultrasound exams to monitor your condition.

Finally…

Many women have ovarian cysts at some time during their lives. Most ovarian cysts present little or no discomfort and are harmless. The majority of ovarian cysts disappear without treatment within a few months. Contact us if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment.

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