Ovarian Cysts

>> Monday, June 17, 2013

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Today I want to help all of you understand what it means when you are told you have a cyst on your ovary. I think this is one of the scariest things to hear after having an ultrasound or CT scan, because most of us think of cysts relating to cancer and don't understand what it could mean. Hopefully, you have a wonderful gynecologist who will explain your tests to you.

Functional ovarian cysts are the most common type of benign cyst on the ovary. It is a clear bubble that forms on the surface of a woman’s ovary during ovulation. Inside is a maturing egg, and there are usually several of these on both ovaries each month that race each other to mature first, rupture and pop out the mature egg into the fallopian tube. Once this bubble pops, and one of the eggs is ovulated, that cyst and all the rest go away. If an egg is not released, or if the sac closes up after the egg is released, the sac can swell up with fluid or blood and begin to enlarge. The bubble can then fill up with a pale yellowish fluid. It is still called a "functional" cyst at this point, or a "hemorrhagic" cyst if it bleeds into itself after ovulation. Both are benign and have no relationship to growths on the ovary related to cancer.

Functional cysts are different from ovarian growths caused by other problems, such as cancer, and most of these are harmless and will go away on their own. Because they do not cause symptoms, and can go away without treatment, most of us may not even know we have one. But if a cyst becomes larger, it can twist (called torsion) and cut off the blood flow to the ovary, rupture, or bleed. If this happens, it is EXTREMELY PAINFUL, and I have seen women pass out or fall on the floor crying due to the pain.

Most of the time, functional cysts will form when the ovary doesn't release the egg and the bubble keeps growing and growing, waiting for the egg to release. Sometimes it is formed after the egg releases, when the bubble seals over and blocks the drainage of fluid, bleeds into itself and fills with blood and clots.

The larger a functional cyst is, the more likely it is to cause symptoms such as back/side pain, delayed/irregular menstrual cycles, constant bleeding/spotting and pain with sex.

These cysts can be seen with ultrasound or CT scan and sometimes can be felt during a pelvic exam. Once you know you have one, then it can be watched to see if it goes away on its own. But, if it is larger than normal and causing pain or bleeding, it can be easily removed by laparoscopic surgery.

I hope this helps your understanding so you know what to ask if you get one.
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