Ovarian Cysts

What Is Ovarian Cyst?

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled, sac-like structures within an ovary. Most cysts are never noticed and resolve without women ever realizing that they are there. When a cyst causes symptoms, pain in the belly or pelvis is by far the most common one. Most cysts are diagnosed by ultrasound, which is the best imaging technique for detecting ovarian cysts. Ultrasound imaging is painless and causes no harm.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of an Ovarian Cyst?

An ovarian cyst may be asymptomatic or show similar signs and symptoms due to appendicitis or diverticulitis. Symptoms will appear if there are large or when rupture of the cysts occur. These symptoms are liable to vary or change:

  • Abdominal distension or swelling
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Pelvic pain before or throughout the menstrual cycle
  • Painful intercourse
  • Discomfort in the lower back or thighs
  • Breast soreness
  • Queasiness and nausea

Treatment of Ovarian Cysts

Treatment can consist of simple observation, or it can include blood tests to help evaluate the cyst for the potential of cancer. If the tumour is causing severe pain, not resolving or is suspicious in any way, then it needs to be removed by surgery. Once the cyst is removed, the growth is sent to a pathologist who examines the tissue under a microscope to make the final diagnosis as to the type of cyst present.

The ideal treatment of ovarian cysts depends on the following:

  • Woman's age
  • The size (and change of size) of the cyst
  • The cyst's appearance on ultrasound

Tests for Ovarian Cysts / Cancer

A pelvic examination will be conducted and your gynaecologist may order some tests if there is a suspicion of cancer :

  • Imaging Tests

Your gynaecologist will usually perform a pelvic ultrasound as well as some blood tests to help determine the risk of cancer. An ultrasound can quickly determine whether the ovarian mass is simple or complex in nature and whether it is mostly cystic, solid mass or mixed in texture.

Other imaging tests maybe required to help further define the ovarian or pelvic mass, namely :

  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scans

Computed Tomography (CT) Scans and Magnetic Resonance Scans

CT scans can detect large tumours very well, but it cannot distinguish small ovarian tumours. They can also detect the following:

  • Inflamed lymph nodes
  • Signs of cancer spread to liver or other organs
  • Signs of ovarian tumors distressing your kidneys and bladder
  • Tumors growing into nearby structures

Magnetic Resonance Scans can help to differentiate texture of the mass as well as assess the blood vessels within it.

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