What are ovarian cysts?
An ovarian cyst is a sac or pouch filled with liquid or solid material that develops on an ovary. Most ovarian cysts are benign, not cancerous. The most common are the ovarian functional cysts, which develop as part of the ovulation process. Most functional ovarian cysts resolve spontaneously and do not require treatment.
Ovarian cysts are common in women of childbearing age and are usually benign. Some cysts could cause pain due to rupture, or twist around (tort), cutting off blood supply to the ovary. This could result in loss of the ovary.
I utilise modern ultrasound imaging techniques which provide reliable differentiation between benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) cysts in most cases.
What are the symptoms?
Most ovarian cysts do not cause symptoms. However, some may cause symptoms to include:
- Pelvic pain
- Feeling of fullness especially in the lower abdomen and pelvic area
- Irregular vaginal bleeding
- Pain during and after sexual intercourse
What treatment is available?
Most ovarian cysts are functional and will resolve over time without treatment. However, symptomatic or large ones will require surgery.
In our practice, ovarian cysts are managed as a day case procedure using the latest advanced keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery. This ensure a very quick recovery with minimal scars (5-10 mm scars at most).
Surgery involves removal of the cyst and leaving the rest of the ovary in younger women seeking to preserve their fertility and egg reserve. However, after the menopause, the ovary (and in most cases both ovaries) are removed to minimise risk of cysts recurring.
Where ovarian cancer is identified, patients are referred to a cancer centre for the appropriate multidisciplinary team management by cancer experts.
Are ovarian cysts dangerous?
Most ovarian cysts are functional (develop with ovulation) and therefore will resolve. They are temporary and not dangerous. They may occasionally cause pain due to rupture, bleeding or twist (ovarian torsion), choking off blood supply to the ovary. These are known as ovarian accidents and will require surgery in some cases.
Benign ovarian cysts can be managed expectantly with regular ultrasound monitoring to monitor growth and symptoms. They will get larger over time and are therefore prone to ovarian accidents. They will require surgical removal in most cases to prevent future accidents. Some types of benign cysts may also develop into cancerous cysts over time (malignant transformation). This is very rare. Cysts known to have a potential to transform over time would be recommended for removal to further minimise this small risk.
How do I know if I have a cyst on my ovary?
Cysts are very easily identified by pelvic ultrasound scans. In our practice pelvic ultrasound is available in the clinic and results available immediately.
Our expertise and experience, utilising the latest ultrasound equipment enables us to distinguish between benign and possibly malignant cysts.
How long does it take for an ovarian cyst to go away?
Most ovarian cysts are functional (develop in relation to the ovulation process). These should resolve over a 6-12 weeks period, though larger ones may take longer. Ultrasound monitoring may be required to confirm resolution.
For more information about how we can help you, have a look at our Well Woman Package.
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