Chicago, physicians explain treatment and surgery for ovarian cysts
The team at Northwestern Women’s Health Associates offers comprehensive women’s care to patients from Chicago, to Northwest Indiana and the surrounding areas. Ovarian cysts are common among women who still get their period. In many cases, they go away on their own. For other patients, surgery may be necessary for ovarian cyst removal.
What is an ovarian cyst?
Females have two ovaries, the sacs where eggs develop and mature. At some point in their lives, many women develop an ovarian cyst which is a solid or fluid-filled pocket that forms inside or on one of the ovaries. Some women get one as part of their monthly cycle without knowing it. Cysts can also occur during pregnancy.
Functional cysts are the most common and form during the regular menstrual cycle. During menstruation, the ovaries grow follicles each month. These follicles release eggs during ovulation. For some women, the structures continue to grow forming a functional cyst. Functional cysts may be follicular cysts or corpus luteum cysts. Both types are generally small, painless, and disappear on their own within a couple menstrual cycles. Other types of cysts do not occur as part of the normal menstrual cycle and should be assessed. Cysts that are not functional are tumors and will not go away. It these cysts stay small and look benign on ultrasound they can be followed consecutively with ultrasounds. If cysts continue to grow, cause pain, or look concerning on ultrasound they may need to be removed.
Most often, a cyst is not a problem. Generally painless and harmless, cysts may go away without treatment. For some women, ovarian cysts never cause any symptoms and disappear on their own. However, if it lingers or gets bigger, it may become painful. Larger cysts may cause abdominal pain or fullness, nausea, pain during sex, or the urge to urinate. Rarely, a cyst is cancerous but it is possible. If you experience sudden, severe abdominal pain, fever and vomiting, dizziness, and fast breathing, contact your doctor right away for emergency attention.
Treatment for ovarian cysts
Ovarian cysts may be diagnosed during a pelvic exam or vaginal ultrasound. Often times, a cyst requires no treatment. Depending on your symptoms or the type of cyst, your Northwestern OBGYN may choose to monitor it to see if it goes away on its own. Pain medication may help with your symptoms. Birth control may be prescribed to help prevent future cysts from forming. This is an option for patients who frequently get functional cysts during ovulation. The medication lessens the chance of future cysts.
Surgical removal of the cyst may be recommended for the following reasons:
- The cyst is larger than 4 inches.
- It does not go away on its own after being monitored for a few months.
- An ultrasound shows it may not be a simple functional cyst.
- Patients are experiencing symptoms.
- Growths are present in both ovaries.
- The patient is a young girl who has never had a menstrual period or the patient is near or has already gone through menopause.
- The doctor suspects the cyst could be cancerous, precancerous or just can’t tell for sure that they are benign.
- The doctor suspects ovarian cancer.
Depending upon the cyst, removal may be the cyst alone or the ovary as well. There are two types of surgery for ovarian cysts. Laparoscopy is used for nonfunctional cysts when cancer is not suspected. The patient is placed under general anesthesia. The doctor makes a tiny cut above or below the belly button. A small camera allows your doctor to see the cyst while another tool removes the cyst or ovary. This is generally an outpatient procedure and the patient can return to work within a day to a week depending upon the amount of strenuous activity performed. Most cysts can be removed by our experts laparoscopically.
Laparotomy is performed when cysts are larger, are on both ovaries, or may be cancerous. General anesthesia is used. The doctor makes an incision in the abdomen to see the ovaries. If needed, a biopsy may be taken during surgery. The cyst is removed. If necessary, the ovary or ovaries may be as well. This is an inpatient surgery that requires staying in the hospital for a couple days. Full recovery may take six weeks.
Ovarian cysts generally do not cause problems. However, if you are experiencing severe pelvic pain combined with fever, nausea, and vomiting, contact your doctor as you could have an infection that needs to be treated.
If you need a Northwestern GYN, contact our Chicago office today for an appointment with our experienced team. Call 312-440-9400.