Ovarian cysts are the fluid-filled swellings that grow on or in one or both the ovaries. Although most of the cysts are non-cancerous or benign and thus not harmful, they can sometime become cancerous or malignant. This disorder is most common in women in the age group of 30 to 45 years. The cancerous cysts are more likely to develop in women over the age of 40.
One of the most common type is a follicular cyst. Here, one of the follicles, where eggs develop, overgrows and fills with fluid. Multiple small cysts that develop in the ovaries are thought to be caused by a hormonal disorder, and this condition is known as polycystic ovary syndrome. One of the less common ones may form in the corpus luteum, the yellow tissue that develops from a follicle after the release of an egg. These cysts can fill with blood and can grow up to 6cm. A dermoid cyst is a cyst that contains cells that are normally found elsewhere in the body, such as skin and hair cells. A cystadenoma is a cyst that grows from one type of cell in the ovary. In rare cases, a single cystadenoma can fill the entire abdominal cavity.
Ovarian cysts do not show any symptoms. However, in rare cases there are a few symptoms that indicate the possibility of this disorder:
- Discomfort in abdomen
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Change or irregularity in your usual menstrual pattern
If you suffer from this disorder, there are chances that you may suffer from urine retention or a frequent need to pass urine, as large cysts can put pressure on the bladder.
Ovarian cysts may give rise to complication like severe abdominal pain, nausea or fever if it ruptures or becomes twisted. They may grow so large that the abdomen is distended. In rare cases, a cyst producing the sex hormone – oestrogen may develop before puberty, and this leads to early sexual development. Some ovarian cysts produce male sex hormones, which can cause development of male characteristics. This may result into excess growth of hair or growth of facial hair.
Diagnosis & treatment
Ovarian cysts are detected usually when a pelvic examination is carried out during a routine check-up. The pelvic examination is carried out only when a doctor finds symptoms of a cyst. You may also be asked to go for ultra-sound scanning or for a laparoscopy to confirm the diagnosis and examine the size and position of the cyst. You may also have do a blood test to find out whether a cyst is cancerous or not.
The good part about ovarian cysts is that they may disappear without any treatment. However, the size of the cyst has to be monitored with regular ultra-sound scans. Large cysts can be drained or removed. If the cyst is cancerous and poses danger, it will be removed, leaving the ovary and fallopian tube intact. An ovarian cyst may recur if the ovary is not removed.