Ovarian cysts: Types, symptoms and treatment
Ovarian cysts are one of the most common things found amongst pre-menopausal women. The majority of women develop benign cysts (non-cancerous), however, in rare cases, a cyst may be worrisome and require further care and follow-up.
In this article, I will discuss the different types of cysts, how to tell if you’ve got one and what your doctor might suggest for treating it.
Please note that this advice is aimed at providing you with general information only, to encourage you to seek your doctor’s care. This does not in any way replace his or her advice or your personalized management plan.
What is an ovarian cyst?
An ovarian cyst is usually a fluid-filled sac that ranges from a few centimeters in diameter to the size of a football.
The most common type of cysts in pre-menopausal women are:
Symptoms that’ll make your doctor suspect you might have an ovarian cyst?
- Pain in your lower belly - “heaviness”
- Unusual swollen belly
- Painful sex
- You feel you urgently want to pee
- Delay in getting pregnant despite trying
- Painful period
- Change in frequency and pattern of your period
What happens next?
If your doctor suspected that you might have a cyst, firstly he/she will ask about your general health, your period, current and previous medical history, as well as your family’s medical history.
Secondly, the doctor will examine your belly and might offer a vaginal exam.
Thirdly, you will most probably get a scan of your belly; for a better view, the doctor might request a vaginal ultrasound if possible.
Performing these three procedures will give a lot of information about your overall medical wellbeing, however, and depending on your personal findings on the scan, the doctor might request blood tests to assist with their decision-making.
How a treatment plan will be developed?
Due to the benign nature of cysts and that most cysts are discovered accidentally, doctors will wait and see.
The management plan will depend on your symptoms, on whether the cyst is getting larger or smaller, if it is simple or complex, the type of fluid seen inside it and the results of your diagnostic tests.
If the doctor decides to interfere through surgery, most women will require a keyhole surgery called “laparoscopy,” which is safe, easy and does not require your doctor to open up your abdomen to get the cyst out - except in a few rare situations.
But wait a minute! Can’t the doctor just remove the fluid inside the cyst? And I heard that it disappears if I take contraceptive Pill?
One the one hand, the contraceptive pill might prevent future cysts from developing, however, it does not minimize or treat existing cysts. On the other hand, removing the fluid from the cyst is not recommended as the cyst will fill up again.
In conclusion, cysts are not usually scary and you should seek medical attention if you experience any unusual symptoms. You doctor is the best person to make a decision regarding a personalized management plan.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Practice Bulletin. Management of adnexal masses. Obstet Gynecol 2007; 110:201.
- RCOG guideline Management of Suspected Ovarian Masses in Premenopausal Women (November 2011).
- Department of Health. Key messages for ovarian cancer for health professionals. London: DH; 2009
- Ueland FR, Depriest PD, Desimone CP, Pavlik EJ, Lele SM, Kryscio RJ, et al. The accuracy of examination under anesthesia and transvaginal sonography in evaluating ovarian size. Gynecol Oncol 2005;99:400–3.