Obstetrician and gynaecologist DR CHRISTOPHER NG says that ovarian cysts may occur in women of all ages, and at any point in their lives. Most are harmless, asymptomatic and resolve on their own, but see a gynaecologist immediately if you start experiencing the painful symptoms listed here.
They may include:
Most benign cysts are functional cysts, in that they appear and disappear at various times during the menstrual cycle. A follicular cyst develops when the follicle does not rupture and release the egg, but instead grows to form a cyst. A corpus luteum cyst develops when the egg is released followed by bleeding into the follicle. These functional cysts are harmless, asymptomatic and spontaneously resolve within two or three cycles.
Other benign cysts (unrelated to the menstrual cycle) include endometriotic cysts, dermoid cysts and cystadenomas. The first two tend to occur in younger women, and are rarely cancerous, while cystadenomas do sometimes become cancerous with time and age. An endometriosis cyst may enlarge and rupture, causing acute pelvic pain; dermoid cysts and cystadenomas can become large, causing a painful twisting of the ovary called ovarian torsion.
Usually older women, most often after menopause, though they can occur at any age. Risk factors for cancerous cysts include an inherited gene mutation, a positive family history, never having been pregnant before, and a previous history of cancer of the breast or colon.
Treatment depends on the age of the patient, the size and nature of the cyst and the severity of the symptoms. Conbservative management with repeat ultrasound scans is appropriate if the cyst is small, asymptomatic, appears benign on ultrasound scan and the ovarian cancer markers are not significantly raised.
Functional cysts do not affect fertility. Ovarian Cysts will usually affect fertility if they are part of polycystic ovary syndrome, where many cysts develop around the periphery of the ovary. This condition is associated with an inability to ovulate and irregular menses.
Endometriosis cysts can damage ovarian and tubal function. Surgical complications during a cystectomy may also damage the ovary, increasing the risk of infertility in the future. Oophorectomy will reduce the chances of conception.
There is that possibility: either in the same ovary or a new one in the previously unaffected ovary. That’s why patients should see their gynaecologists routinely for check-ups and ultrasound scans, or if they develop changes in their menstrual cycle, or develop pelvic pain or abdominal distension.