Know your enemy - Ovarian Cysts
Did you know that ovaries play an important role in the female reproductive system? They are responsible for producing reproductive hormones and eggs needed for fertilization. Abnormal structures such as ovarian cysts can sometimes occur on the ovaries and may affect the female reproductive system.
What are Ovarian Cysts?
An ovarian cyst is a sac of tissue that develops inside an ovary. It is reported that up to 1 in 5 women have ovarian cysts and they can develop at any age.¹
Ovarian cysts are usually small in size, although some can get really huge, with the largest ovarian cyst recorded in history at close to 150 kilograms.² Now, that’s as heavy as a panda!³
How do you know if you have Ovarian Cysts?
Ovarian cysts can sometimes occur without symptoms and may even resolve on their own.4 An ovarian cyst usually only causes symptoms if it ruptures, is very large or blocks blood supply to the ovaries.
Typical symptoms that you may experience if you have a large ovarian cyst are:⁴'⁵
Dull or sharp pain in your lower abdomen
Fullness or pressure in your abdomen
Unexplained weight gain
Increased frequency of urination
Difficulty emptying bowels
Crampy lower abdominal pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding are not usually associated with ovarian cysts. However, in the event that the ovarian cyst ruptures, emergency medical attention is needed if you experience the following symptoms: ⁴'⁵
Sudden sharp and severe pain in your abdomen
Pain with fever and vomiting
How are Ovarian Cysts diagnosed?
Most ovarian cysts do not cause any symptoms; therefore, they often go undiagnosed. However, as ovarian cysts can be cancerous, it is important to detect them early on.
Sometimes, ovarian cysts are diagnosed by chance through physical examination or ultrasound scans. You may be referred for a blood test if an ultrasound scan shows that the cyst is concerning.
What to do if you have ovarian cysts?
Depending upon the results of medical tests and various other factors, an appropriated treatment plan may be offered.
In premenopausal women, watchful waiting which involves monitoring for common symptoms and repeating health scans periodically may be appropriate in majority of cases. This is because most ovarian cysts in this age group of women are functional and will disappear after some time.
Birth control pills may be used to prevent formation of a new cyst, but will not cause the existing cyst to disappear. However, due to the slightly higher risk of ovarian cancer in postmenopausal women, regular ultrasound scans and blood tests are usually recommended until the cysts disappear.
What if the ovarian cyst is large, or if it is causing symptoms? You may need to consider undergoing surgery to remove the ovarian cyst or even the entire ovary.
There are 2 forms of surgery to remove ovarian cysts:
Laparoscopy, otherwise known as keyhole surgery, is the preferred approach for smaller cysts. This operation causes less pain, helps to preserve fertility and allows the resumption of normal activity more quickly.⁵
Laparotomy is used for larger cysts or cysts that are suspected to be cancerous. The whole cyst and ovary are removed and sent to a laboratory to check whether it is cancerous. If both ovaries are removed, it will lead to infertility of the female.⁵
Ovarian cysts occur commonly in women of all ages.
Some ovarian cysts occur with little or no symptoms, but other women with such cysts may experience pain or pelvic pressure.
Most ovarian cysts do not require medical treatment and are not caused by cancer.
However, it is important for you to go for regular health checkups to determine the presence or nature of the cyst and seek prompt medical advice if needed.
This health article is brought to you by Miraco Nutripharm. With clinically proven women’s probiotic Pro-Uro™ as our key product, we believe in sharing about common health topics relevant to women. Look out for part 2 of this article to learn more about the Types of Ovarian Cysts.
1. Greenlee RT, Kessel B, Williams CR, et al. Prevalence, incidence, and natural history of simple ovarian cysts among women >55 years old in a large cancer screening trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2010; 202:373.e1-e9.
2. Bor J. Woman recovering from removal of 180-pound cyst. The Baltimore Sun. 1991 May 10
3. World Wildlife Fund [Internet]. How big, tall and heavy are pandas? [cited 13 Sep 2021]. Available from: https://wwf.panda.org/discover/knowledge_hub/endangered_species/giant_panda/panda/size/?
4. Muto MG. Patient education: Ovarian cysts (Beyond the Basics). In: UpToDate, Post TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2021.
5. Abduljabbar HS, Bukhari YA, Al Hachim EG et al. Review of 244 cases of ovarian cysts. Saudi Med J. 2015;36(7):834-838.
Disclaimer: The article content is intended for informational or educational purposes only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals. The disclaimer also provides that no warranties are given in relation to the medical information supplied in the article, and that no liability will accrue to Miraco Nutripharm Pte Ltd or any affiliated authors in the event that a user suffers loss as a result of reliance upon the information.