Ovarian cyst are a common, but often misunderstood, condition that can cause pain and concern for women.
Doctors, however, explain that although most of the time, they are painless and harmless.
Dr Iba Mayele, an obstetrician gynaecologist at Clinic Galien, Kimironko, says an ovarian cyst occurs when fluid accumulates within a thin membrane inside the ovary. The size can range from small to large—bigger than an orange.
He explains that women might get a cyst every month as part of their cycle but they might not even be aware since they usually go away on their own without treatment.
Dr Mohamed Okasha, a gynaecologist obstetrician at Legacy Clinics, says that ovarian cyst is a fluid filled sac that grows in the ovary. It is an abnormal pocket of fluid, akin to a blister. It contains liquid, gaseous, or semi-solid material.
He adds that there are two types of ovarian cysts, which include; functional ovarian cysts, (this is the most common type; they are harmless and form part of the female’s normal menstrual cycle and are short-lived.) While the second type is the pathological cysts, (these grow in the ovaries and they may be harmless or cancerous.)
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Mayele notes that irregular and possibly painful menstruation may be one of the signs of ovarian cyst; it may be heavier or lighter than before.
Okasha explains that pain in the pelvis could contribute to ovarian cyst, the pain may be constant pain or irregular and it can stretch to the lower back and thighs. It may emerge just before menstruation begins or ends.
He says that if a cyst causes symptoms, one may have pressures, bloating, swelling, or pain in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst, vaginal bleeding, and breast tenderness.
Mayele says if there are signs of dyspareunia (pelvic pain that occurs during sexual intercourse or pain and discomfort in the abdomen after sex), one should see a doctor as soon as possible.
He also says that painful bowel issues when passing stool, pressure on the bowels or a frequent need to pass stool could be a sign of the illness.
“There may be bloating, swelling, or heaviness in the abdomen, also, women may have problems emptying the bladder fully or feel the need to urinate often, so do not take this lightly,” Okasha urges.
He adds that some diseases like endometriosis are associated with painful menstruation and infertility.
Mayele also says that sometimes the body produces abnormal amounts of hormones, resultant to change in the way breasts and body hair grow.
He says that although an ovarian cyst often causes no problems, sometimes it can lead to difficulties, for instance; torsion, here the stem of an ovary can become twisted if the cyst is growing on it. The worrying bit is that it can block the blood supply to the cyst and lead to stern pain in the lower abdomen.
“If a cyst ruptures, you might experience severe pain in the lower abdomen. If the cyst is infected, the pain might even be worse. In unusual cases, a cyst may be an early form of ovarian cancer,” Mayele says.
He says that there is no way to prevent ovarian cyst growth, however; regular pelvic examination will allow for early treatment if this is needed as it can prevent complications.
He says that treatment will depend on the person’s age, whether they have undergone menopause or not, the size and appearance of the cyst and whether there are any symptoms.
Okasha says most ovarian cysts have no signs or symptoms, so they often stay undiagnosed, but diagnostic test may include ultrasound and sound scan of a blood test.
Mayele explains that to reduce the risk of new cysts developing in future menstrual cycles, the doctor may recommend birth control pills. Oral contraceptives may also reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
For Mayele, if the cyst shows cancerous risk, a biopsy can be taken for testing and if the result shows that cancer is present, some organs and tissue may need to be removed, for instance; the ovaries and uterus.
Okasha states that there is no way to prevent ovarian cyst growth. However, usual pelvic examinations will permit you to get early treatment where possible. This can help prevent complications.
He says that for neoplastic, surgery may be done. Surgery may also be proposed if there are symptoms; for example, if the cyst is large or appears to be growing, if the cyst does not look like a functional cyst or when the cyst keeps on growing through two to three menstrual cycles.