What are Ovarian Cysts?

Common in women of reproductive age, ovarian cysts are fluid-filled pouches or sacs which are located in the ovary. While usually harmless and capable of resolving on their own, cancerous ovarian cysts do exist and can pose your health problems.

What causes Ovarian Cysts?

Since there are several conditions that can result in their formation and several different types of cysts, there is no singular factor to explain what causes ovarian cysts.

Conditions that cause ovarian cysts include:

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Women who suffer from this condition frequently have multifollicular cysts. These cysts result from the failure of follicles to mature properly.
  • Endometriosis, a condition characterised by the abnormal growth of endometrial tissue, can sometimes result in the formation of cysts. These ovarian cysts are known as endometriomas. This condition is normally associated with severe period pain and infertility.
  • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. This condition can result in the formation of multiple large cysts and is caused by fertility drugs.

Other causes of ovarian cysts include:

  • Functional cysts. These ovarian cysts are usually formed during a woman’s menstrual cycle and occur when a follicle doesn’t release an egg properly, or fails to dissolve after doing so. They typically resolve by themselves and aren’t harmful.
  • Dermoid cysts. Dermoid ovarian cysts are less common and are formed from abnormal germ cells. They may contain teeth, hair, bone, or skin.
  • These cysts are often filled with fluid and form on the surface of the ovaries. Their contents can either be watery or mucous-like in consistency.
  • Malignant ovarian cysts. These cysts typically have complex features on an ultrasound. Blood tests (also known as tumour markers) may be raised. You will need to make an urgent appointment with Dr G if you are informed about having complex / suspicious ovarian cysts.

Ovarian Cyst: Symptoms

In most cases, symptoms of cysts in ovaries tend not to manifest themselves and are only discovered during routine pelvic examinations. However, if your ovarian cysts burst, bleed, twist, or are cancerous, you would need immediate medical intervention. Please make an appointment with Dr G if you experience any of the signs of ovarian cysts below:

  • Dull pain in the abdomen and/or lower back
  • Sharp one-sided abdominal pain (indicative of a ruptured ovarian cyst)
  • Pelvic pain
  • Abdominal bloating, pressure, or heaviness
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Frequent need to urinate or pain during urination
  • Abnormal bleeding and/or pain during menstruation

Ovarian Cyst: Diagnosis

If Dr G suspects that you have an ovarian cyst, he will recommend that you get an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI scan done to confirm its presence. Dr G will also schedule you for a blood test if the cyst is suspicious.

Ovarian Cyst: Treatment Options

Dr G will discuss your ovarian cyst treatment options with you in detail at the time of your consultation. Ovarian cysts are usually capable of resolution without medical intervention, and Dr G can prescribe you birth control pills to impede the formation of new ones. However, if your ovarian cysts do not resolve by themselves, are large, or cause you pain, you may require a surgical excision. Your likelihood of having cancerous ovarian cysts also increases if you are menopausal or close to menopause. Dr G would very likely recommend a removal of the ovary/ovaries if you fall into this category, even if you are not experiencing ovarian cyst pain. If the ovarian cyst is benign, Dr G will recommend a laparoscopic ovarian cystectomy (only removing the cyst but preserving the ovary).

Ovarian Cyst Removal: Before

Laparoscopic ovarian cystectomy is a surgical technique that deals with the removal of ovarian cysts. You will first be placed under general anaesthesia. Dr G will then pass a long, thin medical instrument (known as a laparoscope) through a tiny incision made on your stomach. The laparoscope will have a small camera at one end, which will allow Dr G to see the interior of your pelvic and abdominal cavity. With the introduction of carbon dioxide into your abdomen to increase the space he has to work in (a process known as insufflation), Dr G will be able to see and remove the cyst. Since carbon dioxide is non-flammable and has high blood solubility, it minimises the potential for complications to arise. It also has a high margin of safety in the context of venous embolisms. Like all other processes, insufflation carries its own risks but the risks are very low.

This minimally invasive surgical procedure is used to treat ovarian cysts. A laparoscopic cystectomy does not remove your ovaries – only the ovarian cyst. If your ovarian cyst size is too big or attached to ovarian tissue, you may need to have a portion (or all) of the ovary removed through a laparotomy.

Ovarian Cyst Removal: After

Recovery after laparoscopic ovarian cyst surgery typically occurs within days. Recovery after a laparotomy can take several weeks. Dr G can prescribe you anti-inflammatory drugs and other pain killers to reduce your ovarian cyst pain.

If you suspect you have ovarian cysts, make an appointment with Dr G. He will be able to tell you whether they are harmless or harmful, and what treatment options you have open to you should you require ovarian cyst removal.