What is an ovarian cyst?
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that is within or nearby the ovary. The cyst can be in or near the fallopian tube as well.
Ovarian cysts are quite common and most do not require surgical removal.
What are different types of ovarian cysts?
There are quite a few types.
The most common are called “functional” ovarian cysts. During every woman’s menstrual cycle, small “cysts” form within the ovaries. These small collections of fluid are called follicles and house maturing eggs. As the egg matures the cyst naturally enlarges. If the cyst does not rupture with ovulation (or release of the egg for potential fertilization) then it may persist for a time being, however, it rarely requires surgical intervention. Usually your physician will simply monitor your ovary with an ultrasound to ensure that the cyst resolves on its own.
Dermoid cysts are also common. These cysts are also quite common and interestingly may contain teeth, hair, bones, or any other structure in the human body! These typically do not go away and depending on their size will likely need to be removed.
Endometriosis can affect the ovaries and cause cysts known as endometriomas. These are also known as “chocolate cysts” as they are typically filled with bloody fluid. These also rarely resolve on their own, and if symptomatic may require surgical removal.
A severe pelvic infection can also result in ovarian cysts. These cysts are typically associated with pain and fever. They may resolve with antibiotics, and occasionally do require surgical removal.
Cancer may also cause ovarian cysts or masses, however is less likely depending on your age and certain risk factors. Your doctor will likely obtain special imaging and may draw blood tests to evaluate this likelihood.
How do I know if I have an ovarian cyst?
Common symptoms associated with ovarian cysts include pelvic pain, pressure, and sense of “fullness” or bloating. This pain may or may not be worse with movement or certain activities. If you are noticing a sense of pelvic pain, pressure or “full feeling” in the pelvic area, make an appointment to see one of our skilled physicians.
How will the doctor diagnose a cyst?
Your doctor will likely initially perform a pelvic exam and then a pelvic ultrasound to visualize the ovaries. If a cyst is present it should be seen with an in-office ultrasound.
Depending on the appearance of the cyst, your doctor may ask you to obtain additional imaging at a radiology office. Pelvic MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is often utilized for further evaluation of an ovarian cyst.
What if it needs to be removed? How will my doctor remove it?
Most ovarian cysts can be removed through minimally invasive surgical techniques.
Talk to your doctor to ensure that this is appropriate for you.
When can a cyst be an emergency?
Occasionally when a cyst becomes large (greater than 5 cm) it may move and twist in a way that it cuts off its own blood supply (ovarian torsion). When this happens, the ovary may begin to die. Patients typically feel severe pain, and may experience nausea and vomiting.
If you have an ovarian cyst and begin to feel very severe pain, nausea, vomiting, or fever then it is critical to be evaluated in the nearest emergency room. In the event that the ovary has moved in such a way that it has cut off its blood supply, your doctor will want to perform immediate surgery in order to remove the cyst and save the ovary.