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Ovarian Cysts

A cyst is a fluid-filled sac. They can form anywhere in the body. Ovarian cysts (sists) form in or on the ovaries. The most common type of ovarian cyst is a functional cyst.

Functional cysts often form during the menstrual cycle. The two types are:

  • Follicle cysts. These cysts form when the sac doesn't break open to release the egg. Then the sac keeps growing. This type of cyst most often goes away in 1 to 3 months.
  • Corpus luteum cysts. These cysts form if the sac doesn't dissolve. Instead, the sac seals off after the egg is released. Then fluid builds up inside. Most of these cysts go away after a few weeks. They can grow to almost 4 inches. They may bleed or twist the ovary and cause pain. They are rarely cancerous. Some drugs used to cause ovulation, such as Clomid® or Serophene®, can raise the risk of getting these cysts.

Other types of ovarian cysts are:

  • Endometriomas- These cysts form in women who have endometriosis. This problem occurs when tissue that looks and acts like the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. The tissue may attach to the ovary and form a growth. These cysts can be painful during sex and during your period.
  • Cystadenomas- These cysts form from cells on the outer surface of the ovary. They are often filled with a watery fluid or thick, sticky gel. They can become large and cause pain.
  • Dermoid cysts- These cysts contain many types of cells. They may be filled with hair, teeth, and other tissues that become part of the cyst. They can become large and cause pain.
  • Polycystic ovaries- These cysts are caused when eggs mature within the sacs but are not released. The cycle then repeats. The sacs continue to grow and many cysts form.

Surgery

Your doctor may want to remove the cyst if you are postmenopausal, or if it:

  • doesn't go away after several menstrual cycles
  • gets larger
  • looks odd on the ultrasound
  • causes pain

The two main surgeries are:

  • Laparoscopy- done if the cyst is small and looks benign (noncancerous) on the ultrasound. While you are under general anesthesia, a very small cut is made above or below your navel. A small instrument that acts like a telescope is put into your abdomen. Then your doctor can remove the cyst.
  • Laparotomy- done if the cyst is large and may be cancerous. While you are under general anesthesia, larger incisions are made in the stomach to remove the cyst. The cyst is then tested for cancer. If it is cancerous, the doctor may need to take out the ovary and other tissues, like the uterus. If only one ovary is taken out, your body is still fertile and can still produce estrogen.

Symptoms

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Many ovarian cysts don't cause symptoms. Others can cause:

  • pressure, swelling, or pain in the abdomen
  • pelvic pain
  • dull ache in the lower back and thighs
  • problems passing urine completely
  • pain during sex
  • weight gain
  • pain during your period
  • abnormal bleeding
  • nausea or vomiting
  • breast tenderness
 
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