Most ovarian cysts are small and do not cause symptoms. Some cysts may cause a dull or sharp ache in the abdomen and pain during certain activities. Larger cysts may cause torsion (twisting) of the ovary that causes pain. Cysts that bleed or rupture (burst) may lead to serious problems requiring prompt treatment. In rare cases, a cyst may be cancerous. In its early stages, ovarian cancer often has no symptoms, so you should be aware of it’s warning signs:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Enlargement or swelling of the abdomen
- Inability to eat normally
- Unexplained weight loss
- Urinary frequency or incontinence
- Feeling tired
Be sure to see your doctor if you have any of these signs. Ovarian cancer is very rare in young women, but the risk increases as a woman ages.
An ovarian cyst may be found during a routine pelvic exam. If your health care provider finds and enlarged ovary, tests may be recommended to provide more information.
- Vaginal Ultrasound – This procedure uses sound waves to create picture of the internal organs that can be viewed on a screen. For this test, a slender instrument called a transducer is placed in the vagina. The views created by the sound waves show the shape, size, location and makeup of the cyst.
- Laparoscopy – In this type of surgery, a laparoscope – a thin tube with a camera – is inserted into the abdomen to view the pelvic organs. Laparoscopy also can be used to treat cysts.
- Blood tests – If you are past menopause, in addition to an ultrasound exam, you may be given a test that measures the amount of a substance called CA 125 in your blood. An increased CA 125 level may be a sign of ovarian cancer in women past menopause. In premenopausal women, an increased CA 125 level can be caused by many other conditions besides cancer. Therefore, this test is not a good indicator of ovarian cancer in premenopausal women. If your health care provider thinks that your cyst may be cancer, more tests may be ordered. It may be recommended that you see a doctor who specializes in gynecologic cancer.
Several treatment options are available. Choosing an option depends on many factors, including the type of cyst, whether you have symptoms, your family history, how large the cyst is and your age.
Ovarian cysts are common in women during their childbearing years. Although most cysts are harmless and go away on their own, your health care provider will want to keep track of any cyst to be sure that it does not grow and cause problems. Feel free to contact us if you have concerns, questions, or would like to set up an appointment.