Ovarian cysts often go away on their own. Here’s what you need to know about this common women’s health condition.
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and we at Women’s Integrated Health can’t stress enough the importance of regular health screenings, including yearly women’s wellness exams, to aid in early detection of issues that could risk a woman’s health.
Because attention is on ovarian cancer this month (and hopefully always), let’s talk about ovarian cysts, which can occasionally be cancerous.
Doctors can detect ovarian cysts during regular pelvic exams by feeling for swelling on the ovaries. If a doctor suspects a cyst, he or she will perform an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis.
What is an Ovarian Cyst?
Ovarian cysts are solid or fluid-filled sacs or pockets within or on the surface of an ovary. They’re surprisingly very common. Doctors see more than 3 million cases yearly in the United States.
Most ovarian cysts are symptom free and disappear on their own within a few months.
Occasionally, ovarian cysts linger, causing complications:
Signs of Ovarian Cysts
- Menstrual irregularities
- Pain during intercorse
- Irregular bowel movements
If ovarian cysts cause issues, there are a few medical treatment options doctors discuss with their patients.
Medical Treatments for Ovarian Cysts
- Hormonal birth control pills. Birth control pills can regulate a woman’s hormones to get cysts in check. Plus, they reduce the risk of developing more cysts.
- Surgically removing the cyst. For this surgery, a doctor creates a small incision in the navel or stomach to remove the cyst.
- Removing the ovary or fallopian tube. In rare cases, a cyst can damage the ovaries or fallopian tubes. In these instances, one or both of these organs could need to be removed.
Can Ovarian Cysts be Cancerous?
It’s important to note that only about 5-10 percent of women with ovarian cysts require surgery. And of those women, only about 12 percent are cancerous.
If a doctor finds an ovarian cyst, he or she will most likely order imaging tests and/or biopsies to determine whether the cyst is cancerous. In the event a cyst is cancerous, treatments include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
To recap, ovarian cysts are usually benign and occasionally have no symptoms at all. Occasionally, though, they can be painful, symptomatic and cancerous.
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of ovarian cysts, please make an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.