A cyst in any part of the body can be a sign of cancer or other negative health conditions, and this applies to ovarian cysts as well. While some women develop benign ovarian cysts that are not cancerous, these cysts can still cause several uncomfortable symptoms.
Cancerous cysts in the ovaries can quickly develop into more dangerous types of cancer, and ovarian cyst screenings are an important preventive measure against this.
Types of Ovarian Cysts
The ovaries are two small organs located on either side of the uterus. The ovaries house a woman’s eggs and release them periodically during the menstrual cycle.
The hormones created in the ovaries regulate menstruation and ovulation – the cycle of released eggs moving from the ovaries through the fallopian tubes. If a sperm cell fertilizes the egg, it results in pregnancy, and the fertilized egg will implant on the uterine wall and develop into a fetus.
If egg fertilization does not occur, the woman will flush it from her body during menstruation. A cyst is a sac filled with fluid, and ovarian cysts can form inside or outside the ovaries.
Follicles in the ovaries help eggs mature and then release them at the proper time. Functional cysts form when an ovarian follicle fails to dissolve after releasing a matured egg or fails to release a matured egg.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects the way eggs develop in the ovaries. Clusters of cysts form when these follicles fail to open at the appropriate time.
Endometriosis is a medical condition that affects the uterine walls. Tissue from the lining of the uterus grows improperly, causing severe menstrual cramps and other symptoms. In some cases, these tissues can accumulate in other parts of the body, including the ovaries.
When endometriosis causes endometriomas to form on the ovaries, this can impact fertility and cause extreme pain.
These are fluid-filled cysts that form on the surface of the ovaries.
These cysts contain cells similar to the ones found in other parts of the body such as the hair, teeth and nails.
What Are Ovarian Cysts: The Symptoms
Some women develop ovarian cysts and do not notice any adverse symptoms for quite a long time. However, screenings are very important, because some types of ovarian tumors share similar traits with ovarian cysts.
While noncancerous, benign tumors may pose no threat and are often easily removable with surgery, malignant cancerous tumors can spread cancer to other areas of the body and require immediate attention. It is, unfortunately, common for ovarian cancer to spread before detection.
Some of the most common symptoms of ovarian tumors and cysts include:
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Abnormally painful menstrual cramps
- Weight gain
- Loss of appetite, coupled with nausea and possibly vomiting
- Throbbing aches in the lower back
- Increased frequency of urination
- Difficulty urinating
- Abdominal pain and bloating
Women who experience these symptoms should see a doctor immediately for a screening. Most ovarian cysts and tumors are detectable during a routine pelvic exam, and a gynecologist will likely refer the patient to additional screenings after detecting a suspicious lump or other sign of a cyst or tumor.
Follow-up procedures may include:
- Hormone level tests
- Other imaging tests
- CA-125 screening
CA-125 is a protein in the blood, and CA-125 levels tend to be much higher in women with ovarian cancer.
Screening and Treatment
Regular health screenings are crucial to early cancer detection and to manage the unpleasant, noticeable symptoms some ovarian cysts can cause. Older women and postmenopausal women are more likely to develop ovarian cancer and therefore require more frequent screenings. It’s important to remember that many types of benign ovarian cysts will dissipate over time without any negative symptoms. Other women will require different solutions if cysts do not go away on their own.
When a doctor identifies a benign cyst, he or she may recommend regular checkups every few months to monitor the cyst. If the cyst progresses into dangerous territory, the doctor may prescribe treatment or recommend surgery. If a cyst grows, causes significant pain or doesn’t go away on its own, a doctor may recommend a laparotomy or laparoscopy procedure to remove the cyst.
A laparotomy involves a large incision in the abdomen, whereas a laparoscopy is a less-invasive procedure performed with a flexible lighted instrument and camera apparatus. Laparoscopy is preferred due to the easier recovery and lower risk during surgery, but larger cysts and ovarian tumors will likely require laparotomy.
Regular Checkups Are Important
Most women discover their ovarian cysts and tumors during routine gynecological exams. These exams are very important for female health, and women should have the utmost confidence in the doctors who treat them.
At Arizona Gynecology Consultants, we understand how important regular gynecological screenings are for women, and we work with an extensive network of trusted providers and health care professionals to provide the best standard of care possible. Get in touch with us if you have questions about ovarian cysts, screenings or other issues related to your gynecological health.