Ovarian Cysts (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What is the ovary and what are ovarian cysts?
- What causes ovarian cysts?
- What symptoms are caused by ovarian cysts?
- How are ovarian cysts diagnosed?
- How can the physician decide if an ovarian cyst is dangerous?
- How are ovarian cysts treated?
- What are the risks of ovarian cysts during pregnancy?
- Ovarian Cysts At A Glance
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
How are ovarian cysts treated?
Most ovarian cysts in women of childbearing age are follicular cysts (functional cysts) that disappear naturally in one to three months. Although they can rupture (usually without ill effects), they rarely cause symptoms. They are benign and have no real medical consequence. They may be diagnosed coincidentally during a pelvic examination in women who do not have any related symptoms. All women have follicular cysts at some point that generally go unnoticed.
A follicular cyst in a woman of childbearing age is usually observed for a few menstrual cycles because these cysts are common, and ovarian cancer is rare in this age group. Sometimes ovarian cysts in menstruating women contain some blood, called hemorrhagic cysts, which frequently resolve quickly.
Ultrasound is used to determine the treatment strategy for ovarian cysts because it can help to determine if the cyst is a simple cyst (just fluid with no solid tissue, seen in benign conditions) or a compound cyst (with some solid tissue that requires closer monitoring and possibly surgical resection).
In summary, the ideal treatment of ovarian cysts depends on the woman's age, the size (and any change in size) of the cyst, and the cyst's appearance on ultrasound.
Treatment can consist of simple observation, or it can involve evaluating blood tests such as a CA-125 to help determine the potential for cancer (keeping in mind the many limitations of CA-125 testing described above).
The tumor can be surgically removed either with laparoscopy, or if needed, an open laparotomy (using an incision at the bikini line) if it is causing severe pain, not resolving, or if it is suspicious in any way. Once the cyst is removed, the growth is sent to a pathologist who examines the tissue under a microscope to make the final diagnosis as to the type of cyst present.
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