Ovarian Cysts are fluid-filled sacs found within or on the surface of a woman’s ovary. Women have two ovaries and are about the size of an almond; however, the size of an ovarian cyst ranges greatly. Smaller cysts are the size of a grape, medium cysts are the size of a golf ball, and anything larger is categorized as a large cyst, some can even be ten plus pounds. Some cysts form during a woman’s ovulation cycle and go away within a couple of months. Of course, there are always times where cysts can form whenever, not having to do with a woman’s ovulation cycle or menstrual cycle. Most ovarian cysts are not felt nor do they give off pain—but this is not always the case.
There are multiple different kinds of benign (non cancerous) ovarian cysts. Two of the most common include follicle cysts and corpus luteum cysts. A follicular cyst forms when a woman is on or near her menstrual cycle. The egg does not burst out of its follicle to travel down the fallopian tube and is not released, resulting in a cyst growing on the ovary. A corpus luteum cyst occurs also when a woman is on or near her menstrual cycle. This specific cyst forms when the opening for the egg to travel to the fallopian tube is closed off and fluid accumulates within the follicle, causing a cyst within the ovary. Other cysts that are usually benign but sometimes cancerous and not related to the menstrual cycle are dermoid cysts, cystadenomas, and endometriomas. These cysts develop due to growth of different types of tissues and produce a liquid substance forming the cyst inside or on the ovary. In general, most ovarian cysts are not cancerous but a small portion of them can be or can turn into cancerous tumors (ovarian cancer) and the risk for ovarian cancer increases with age.
There are few signs and symptoms of suffering from an ovarian cyst, especially because most are smaller and don’t give off pain or are felt. The few symptoms that would indicate a woman having one would be lower abdominal pain, pressure, or swelling and sensitivity. If an ovarian cyst ruptures that is when it is felt the most, causing severe sharp pain and needing medical attention. Also, it is possible for a cyst to be twisted around an ovary, fallopian tube, or any other anatomical part of a woman. This would cause dull to severe pain and even nausea and vomiting from anywhere to weeks or months. If any of these symptoms or signs are suspected contact your OBGYN immediately.
To identify a cyst an ultrasound is performed to help examine how big, what kind, the shape, and so on. A pregnancy test is also taken to rule out the chance of pregnancy and sometimes blood tests are done. If a cyst does not go away on its own within a month or so, a doctor may prescribe a pill to help move along the process. If that does not help surgery may be required, especially if pain occurs. Ovarian cysts can be removed through laparoscopy surgery, which is performed by making two small incisions below the underwear line and sucking the fluid out of the cyst, removing the cyst, as well as the surrounding tissue. Laparoscopic surgery is usually done with smaller cysts and takes about an hour to perform. The other surgery performed to remove larger cysts is called laparotomy surgery. The abdomen is cut open to remove the cyst and surrounding tissue, and if needed the whole uterus.
Unfortunately, there is nothing a woman can do to prevent an ovarian cyst from occurring but birth control is a common method to help prevent. A popular question that is often asked is if ovarian cysts are genetic but there is no official word on if they are. I have had a firsthand experience with ovarian cysts, specifically endometriomas, which caused me to research this. I had a grapefruit size cyst wrapped around my fallopian tube, which caused me to be in pain for several months and finally had surgery to remove it. My mom has also suffered from large ovarian cysts as well as my great- grandma; for this reason I suspect that ovarian cysts may be genetic, but I do not know for sure. I hope this paper can help and inform others on ovarian cysts and what they all entail. It is not a pleasant thing to go through, especially if it is felt but with the right precautions and doctors, it can be fixed!