What is an ovarian cyst?
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that mainly occurs on or inside the ovary. Ovarian cysts are very common but usually don’t show any symptoms. For this reason, they go undetected in most cases. These cysts occur naturally and eventually disappear after a few months.
To remove these cysts, a laparoscopy or laparotomy may be performed. The difference between the two is that a laparoscopy uses small incisions while a laparotomy uses larger abdominal cuts. A laparotomy is mainly used when there is a concern for cancer. However, both procedures can be used to diagnose ovarian cysts, fibroids, adhesions, and other abdominal-related issues.
Ovarian cysts are formed during menstrual periods. These cysts are different from those associated with cancer and other diseases.
An ovarian cyst removal is an operation that will remove the cysts from the ovary. In this case, a laparoscopy will be used. A laparoscopic procedure is effective in the removal of ovarian cysts compared with an open surgery as it offers a much faster recovery time.
During a laparoscopy, the doctor will closely look at the ovarian growths via a small incision. The cyst that is causing the symptoms is usually removed without disturbing the ovary. In cases where cancer is detected, both ovaries are removed.
Ovaries are bean-like organs that are part of the female reproductive system. The function of the ovaries is to release an egg during the menstrual cycle and also release the two primary female sex hormones: progesterone and estrogen. Therefore, the presence of cysts can affect the ovaries and consequently interfere with the reproductive system.
Why should ovarian cysts be removed?
A doctor will proceed to remove the cyst when cancer is suspected. A cyst removal is also recommended when the cyst is solid as opposed to being fluid, when it causes pain, and when it is relatively large. Ultrasounds checks may suggest the presence of a cyst. The removal of an ovarian cyst is also recommended when it interferes with the menstrual cycle, or when you have gone through your menopause and the cyst is still present.
Surgery is performed to establish the diagnosis of the cyst, to rule out the possibility of cancer, and to do away with the growth that is causing the symptoms.
Common Causes of Ovarian Cysts
Every month, during a menstrual cycle, a follicle grows in the ovary, where the egg develops. In the event where the follicle does not break to release the egg, a follicular cyst is formed. Sometimes, it fails to discharge the fluid after the liberation of the egg. It then shrinks and swells, and eventually becomes a cyst. Follicular cysts are also referred to as "functional cysts". These types of ovarian cysts are benign in nature (non-cancerous) and are usually harmless as they disappear after some months. Thus, treatment is not necessary. However, pelvic pain symptoms may be experienced due to such growths.
When an abnormal cell growth occurs that is not related to the menstrual cycle, a pathological cyst results. They usually begin to develop before or after menopause. The development of pathological cysts may arise from the cells that are used to cover the outer part of the ovaries or from those that are used to create the egg. Most of them are non-cancerous, but can also be removed through a laparoscopic operation.
Which conditions favor the growth of ovarian cysts?
Conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome favor the development of ovarian cysts.
When the tissues that line the womb are found outside the womb, endometriosis occurs. These tissues are found in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina, and rectum. Blood-filled cysts can also form in these tissues.
On the other hand, a polycystic ovary syndrome will result in the development of small but harmless cysts in your ovaries. These are egg follicles that do not reach ovulation. Instead, they alter the levels of hormones in your body.
What are some of the symptoms of ovarian cysts?
Most ovarian cysts usually have no symptoms. However, they are likely to cause pain. These pains will be felt if the cyst becomes large, breaks open, begins to bleed, and interferes with the supply of blood when twisted or bumped into during sexual intercourse.
The most common symptoms include pain during bowel movements, constant pelvic pain (sometimes accompanied with nausea), abdominal bloating, pelvic pain shortly after or before the beginning of the menstrual cycle, and pain during sexual intercourse.
Make sure that you visit your health care provider if you suspect that you have ovarian cysts.
Laparoscopy is the method of choice for the removal of ovarian cysts.
How is it carried out?
A relatively small incision is made below the navel. A laparoscope is then inserted through the incision. A laparoscope is a tube that has a camera with a very high resolution. Carbon dioxide gas is then pumped into the abdomen. Its primary purpose is to enable a better view of the abdominal organs. The doctor can find the cyst in real time as the camera captures the images inside and transmitting them onto a screen, which the doctor can see. When a cyst is located, additional incisions (two or more) are made. A surgical equipment will be inserted and used to remove the growth. Sample tissues can also be collected for further testing.
If a cancerous cyst is detected, both ovaries will have to be removed. After removal of the cysts, the surgical instruments are removed and the incision areas are closed using staples or stitches.
In cases where the doctor prefers an open surgery rather than a laparoscopy, a larger incision will be made for the operation. All in all, a laparoscopy procedure takes 1 to 2 hours to complete.
The Recovery Period
Upon successful completion of the surgery, you will be given intravenous fluids and other necessary medications. Moreover, since general anesthesia was used, you will experience drowsiness, thereby requiring you to stay in the hospital until its effect wears off. In the meantime, the nurses will continue to monitor your progress and see how you are recovering or how your body is responding after the surgery. After a laparoscopy, patients might resume their normal activities after a day. A laparotomy patient might stay longer in the hospital for up to four days and return to their normal activities after six weeks.
Potential Risks and Complications
Most complications are related to what causes the cysts. Common complications include bleeding and signs that are related to cancer. Always contact your doctor if you feel any unusual changes after the surgery. Having difficulties in passing urine, chest pains, vomiting, abdominal swelling, vaginal discharge, and redness may require further assistance from your doctor.
Are there any prevention methods that can be applied?
If you occasionally get functional cysts, yet you are not trying to get pregnant, it is strongly recommended that you take hormonal medications to prevent the development of the cysts. Birth control pills can help prevent follicles from developing.