Ovarian cysts are common, yet often misunderstood. A big part of the confusion around ovarian cysts is that cyst formation is abnormal. In reality, cyst formation is a regular part of the menstrual cycle. An ovulating woman makes a new cyst every month!
A cyst is simply a fluid-filled sac with a lining – something like a water balloon placed within the ovary. The majority of ovarian cysts are a normal part of the monthly maturation of an egg. The technical name for this cyst is a follicle.
Ovarian cysts are sacs in or on the surface of the ovary that are generally filled with fluid. Females are born with two ovaries. Each side of the uterus has one ovary. Each ovary is around the size and shape of a little almond. In the ovaries, eggs grow and mature. During the reproductive years, eggs are produced in monthly cycles.
How Does an Ovarian Cyst Feel?
Following ovulation, the egg is released into the pelvis, and the follicle may re-fill with fluid or blood and remain. This usually lasts another week or two, but it can last much longer. The follicle may fail to burst and the fluid-filled sac may stay for several weeks. The bursting of an ovarian cyst can be painful enough for some women to warrant a trip to the emergency department. In rare cases, surgery may be required to halt the cyst's bleeding.
The majority of cysts are caused by a normal ovulatory cycle. Some cysts, however, arise as a result of ovarian surface injury. Other cell types enter the ovary through this opening and collect fluid (occasionally blood) within the cyst.
The Dangers of Ovarian Cysts
Most ovarian cysts are transient entities that, if left alone, would disappear in a week or two. Some cysts, on the other hand, might last for months. Many of these cysts will have a wall that continues to secrete fluid, causing the cyst to persist or even expand in size. On rare instances, a cluster of cyst wall cells can divide faster than usual (a process known as neoplasia, or new cell development) and, over time, might develop pre-cancerous alterations or possibly become ovarian cancer - however most neoplastic cyst walls are benign.
The slight, but not insignificant, possibility that a cyst contains malignant cells is what makes them potentially concerning. Ovarian cysts are more of an annoyance than a cause for concern for most women of reproductive age. Cysts that grow to be quite large or that have been present for several months, on the other hand, are more likely to include neoplastic alterations and hence pose a higher cancer risk.
Treatment and diagnosis
An ultrasound can be beneficial and is becoming more accurate in detecting neoplasia. Ultrasounds, on the other hand, are not particularly excellent at discriminating between benign and malignant neoplasia. In this scenario, a surgeon might remove the cyst wall for pathological inspection.
If your doctor believes you have a cyst, they will do a pelvic exam to look for swelling. Because cysts do not usually necessitate treatment, the clinician has several choices to select from:
- Imaging Tools (Ultrasound, CT scan, MRI) - Ultrasound is the most widely used imaging tool by doctors to generate pictures that establish the shape, location, and size of the cyst.
- Pregnancy Test - Because pregnancy can induce ovarian cysts, doctors may use this as a preliminary test.
- Hormone Levels Test - This test analyses the individual's estrogen and progesterone levels and assesses how those levels may have influenced cyst formation.
- CA-125 blood tests are routinely used to check for symptoms of ovarian cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women.