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Ovarian Cysts

Many women have ovarian cysts at some point and don’t even know it. Ovarian cysts form on or within the surface of one or both ovaries. They are fluid-filled sacs that cause little or no pain or discomfort. They typically are harmless and usually disappear on their own without treatment in a few months. In fact, these types of cysts are quite normal. However, some ovarian cysts can cause problems, especially if they rupture (burst). Some large cysts can also cause the ovary to move out of position, called ovarian torsion. Symptoms of ovarian cysts that have become too large or ruptured include pelvic pain, pain during bowel movements, nausea/vomiting, breast tenderness, fullness or heaviness in the abdomen, and/or pressure on your bladder that causes urinary frequency. Be sure to report any of these symptoms to your provider and have regular pelvic exams. If you experience sudden, severe pelvic pain, or have pelvic pain accompanied by fever and/or vomiting, seek medical attention immediately.

If your provider finds a cyst during your pelvic exam, or suspects a cyst based on your symptoms, several tests and procedures can help her identify the cyst and its type. These include a simple pregnancy test, blood tests, a pelvic ultrasound, and/or laparoscopy. Laparoscopy is a surgery that involves inserting a small, lighted instrument into your abdomen through small incisions to see your ovaries and, if necessary, remove the cyst. Laparoscopy is a surgery that is performed in a hospital under general anesthesia.

Cysts have a variety of treatment options. For small cysts, your provider may recommend waiting to see if the cyst disappears on its own, with periodic follow-up to monitor its progress. Birth control pills can reduce the chance of new cysts forming. If a cyst is growing or large or doesn’t go away on its own, or if it develops after menopause, your provider may recommend surgical removal of the cyst, and if necessary, the ovary. If a cyst is shown to be cancerous, your doctor will likely advise a total hysterectomy with the removal of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.

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