At some point during your life, you may develop an ovarian cyst. Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs or growths that can form on or within the ovaries. They are most common during childbearing years but can occur at any age. Most ovarian cysts are harmless and will disappear on their own. Others, however, can produce serious symptoms or complications. Rarely ovarian cysts can be cancerous. The best way to avoid serious problems resulting from ovarian cysts is to visit Pearl Women's Center in Portland for regular pelvic examinations.
To find out more about ovarian cysts, choose the specialists at Pearl Women's Center. Ask a question, book online, or call our office in Portland at (503) 771-1883. We serve patients from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Northern California and Alaska.
Seek immediate attention if you have these symptoms:
- Sudden, severe abdominal pain
- Pain with fever and vomiting
- Faintness, dizziness or weakness
- Rapid breathing
- Cold, clammy skin
- Increasing size of clothing despite no change in diet and exercise
Types of Ovarian Cysts
While ovarian cysts can naturally resolve themselves, many types must be surgically removed. Our practitioners frequently diagnose the following types of ovarian cysts:
- Functional cysts are the most common type of ovarian cyst. They develop from tissue that changes during the normal function of ovulation. In the normal reproductive cycle, structures called follicles rupture and release an egg during ovulation. Sometimes this normal rupture does not occur. Instead of being released, the egg grows into a follicular cyst. This type of ovarian cyst seldom causes pain and generally disappears within a couple of menstrual cycles.
Another type of functional cyst is created when the follicle breaks open and releases the egg, but somehow the opening seals itself off and fluid accumulates inside, forming a cyst. This type of cyst is called a corpus luteum. It usually disappears on its own but has the potential to grow to about 4 inches in diameter and cause pelvic or abdominal pain. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe pain accompanied by fever.
- Dermoid cysts are formed from cells that produce human eggs and consequently can contain hair, skin or teeth. They are rarely cancerous and, while generally small, have the potential to grow large and cause painful twisting of the ovary. Dermoids need to be removed, and this procedure can be performed onsite in our surgery center.
- Endometriomas may develop in women with endometriosis, a condition in which tissue from the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. Some of this tissue can attach to the ovary and form a cyst. It is often painful during intercourse and menstruation. Endometriomas often require surgery for removal.
- Cystadenomas develop from ovarian tissue. They are often filled with a watery liquid and are generally benign (non-cancerous). They can become very large and cause pain. Surgery is often required to remove this type of cyst.
Signs and Symptoms
Many ovarian cysts have no symptoms and are detected only during a pelvic exam or with imaging studies like ultrasound. While most cysts are benign, some cysts, particularly those that develop after menopause, may be cancerous. Pearl Women's Center urges you to protect your health and schedule regular annual pelvic exams.
Symptoms of ovarian cysts include:
- Pressure, fullness, heaviness or pain in the abdomen
- A dull ache in the lower back and thighs
- Difficulty emptying your bladder fully
- Painful menstrual periods
- Abnormal bleeding
- Pain during intercourse
- Nausea, vomiting or breast tenderness
Our practitioners are experts in the diagnosis, treatment and, if necessary, surgical removal of ovarian cysts. If an ovarian cyst is either found during a pelvic examination or suspected, we will conduct further tests to identify the type, size, shape and composition of the cyst, which may include:
- A pelvic ultrasound. This safe, painless imaging procedure produces real-time images of the internal structures of the pelvis. Ultrasound images are very accurate in confirming the presence of a cyst, identifying its location and determining whether the cyst is fluid filled, solid or a combination of the two.
- Blood tests to assist in identifying the type of cyst.
Treatment plans for ovarian cysts are highly individualized based on each patient's unique circumstance and the type of cyst. They may include:
- A wait-and-see approach if you have no symptoms and an ultrasound confirms the presence of a simple, fluid-filled cyst. We will schedule you for re-examination in 1 to 3 months and perform periodic ultrasound exams to monitor any changes in the size of the cyst.
- A prescription for birth control pills to reduce the chance of new cysts developing in future menstrual cycles.
- Minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery if the cyst is large, growing, causing pain or other symptoms. A laparoscope is a slim, lighted instrument inserted through a tiny incision in the abdomen. At Pearl Women's Center, this outpatient procedure is performed in our onsite surgery center. Your doctor will be able to view the cyst with the scope and remove it, often without removing the ovary.
- Hysterectomy if the cyst is cancerous.