Medically Reviewed by A. Lynn Clary, MD
During a woman’s monthly cycle, her ovaries form follicles that will grow eggs. When the follicle releases its egg, the sac normally shrinks and disappears.
This very natural process occasionally takes a tricky turn.
If the follicle does not release the egg or if the sac does not shrink after releasing the egg, the sac can fill with fluid, causing the ovarian cyst.
“Ovarian cysts are common among women of childbearing age,” says McLeod Gynecologist Angela Lynn Clary, MD. “In most cases, the cysts are small, cause no noticeable symptoms and go away on their own in 8-12 weeks. The cysts are not cancerous in themselves and only very rarely turn cancerous.”
SYMPTOMS OF OVARIAN CYSTS
You may feel symptoms if the cyst:
Other signs that you may have an ovarian cyst include:
DIAGNOSING THE PROBLEM
A visit to your Gynecologist usually results in a quick determination of whether it’s an ovarian cyst. The physician conducts a pelvic exam and, possibly, an ultrasound. Depending on what your Gynecologist finds, they may also suggest a CT or MRI scan and some blood tests.
A laparoscopy (performed with a thin tube inserted through a small incision into the abdomen) offers a closer, clearer view of the cysts.
Your Gynecologist may prescribe medication for the pain or birth control pills to prevent the ovulation cycle. In addition to pills, vaginal rings or patches can also help reduce ovulation and production of ovarian cysts.
About 5% of childbearing-age women suffer from a large number of cysts that can affect or hinder her ability to have children or harm her heart and blood vessels. The cause of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) isn’t known. Treatments range from lifestyle modification and birth control pills to fertility medications or surgery.
WHEN SURGERY IS NEEDED
Surgery is rarely needed. Only 5-10% of women with an ovarian cyst require surgery, because the cysts do not go away, are causing problematic symptoms or grow larger than 10 centimeters (just less than 4 inches). Surgery may also be recommended for women who are approaching or past menopause and still have ovarian cysts.
The most likely procedures to be performed are:
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Set an appointment with your Gynecologist if you have the symptoms listed above or if you experience the following for 2 weeks:
Sources include: McLeod Health, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health & Human Services