The ovaries are almond shaped glands that produce female sex hormones, as well as eggs! Our friendly GP’s at London Doctors Clinic are happy to see patients concerned about their ovaries, and more specifically, about ovarian cysts. Whether you are worried that you may have the condition, or you’ve already received the diagnosis and simply want further advice, our GP’s can answer all of your questions in a consultation.
What Is An Ovarian Cyst?
An ovarian cyst is a fluid filled sac within or on the ovary. These do not usually cause any symptoms and are very common, but sometimes can lead to pain and other problems.
Cysts can form when the ovary is functioning completely normally and often have no long-term consequences. They usually go away without and treatment after a few months. Sometimes cysts are not part of the normal function of the ovary and can be more concerning, but this occurs in the minority of cases.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts usually do not cause symptoms unless they are really big, they split (rupture) or stop blood reaching the ovary.
If either of these happen, you might have some of these symptoms:
- Pelvic pain
- This can vary a lot between women.
- You might have a dull pain or sudden sharp pains.
- Pain during sex
- Problems emptying your bowels
- Needing to pee more often
- Changes to your periods
- Heavier periods, irregular periods or lighter periods than normal
- A bloated or swollen tummy
- Feeling full more easily even if you haven’t eaten very much
- Problems getting pregnant
- Although this is uncommon
If you ever experience severe pelvic pain, you should seek medical help immediately.
What Does The Ovary Normally Do?
The ovaries are two small organs found either side of the womb (uterus). The ovaries do two key things:
- Release an egg approximately once a month as part of the menstrual cycle
- Excrete the female sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) which are key to female reproduction
The ovaries are two small organs found either side of the womb
Diagnosing Ovarian Cysts
Since they don’t usually cause any symptoms, diagnosis is usually incidental, whereby the cysts are simply noticed during investigations such as ultrasound scans, performed for other medical reasons.
However, if you do present to your GP or private doctor with symptoms of ovarian cysts, your doctor will usually examine your tummy, as well as perform an internal vaginal examination. From here, the doctor may also refer you on for ultrasound scans (transvaginal or transabdominal), and perform some blood tests.
Why Do Some Women Get Cysts?
A woman can get ovarian cysts on one ovary or both. Most ovarian cysts are not cancerous (benign) but a smaller number can be cancerous (malignant). Cancerous cysts are more common in women who have gone through menopause. Some cysts occur when you have an underlying condition, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Ovarian cysts can be split into two main categories: functional or pathological ovarian cysts.
Functional Ovarian Cysts
These are cysts that occur during normal menstruation – they do not cause any long term damage and tend to go away by themselves quite quickly. These are the most common type of cysts.
The eggs that are released from the ovaries come out of a structure called a follicle, which is filled with fluid and protects the egg while it grows.
When the egg is released, the follicle bursts.
However, sometimes the follicle might not burst and release the egg meaning it continues to grow and fill with fluid. This can form a cyst. Cysts can also form after an egg has been released. Most cysts will disappear in a few months although they can cause pelvic pain in the interim.
Pathological Ovarian Cysts
These are cysts that develop because of cells growing abnormally and are not part of the normal menstrual cycle. These are the less common type of cyst. Sometimes these cysts can be cancerous or part of an underlying medical condition. Your doctor will do the appropriate tests to find out if this is the case.
What Can Be Done About Ovarian Cysts?
Most functional ovarian cysts go away without any treatment. Pathological ovarian cysts, especially if they are cancerous, are likely to need treatment. The decision about whether your cyst needs treatment will depend on its size and appearance, whether you have symptoms and whether you’ve gone through the menopause.
In most cases, the recommended plan of action involves ‘watchful waiting’ which means checking on the cyst regularly using ultrasound scan. You may also need blood tests if you have been through the menopause. Further treatment for ovarian cysts mostly involves surgery. The discussion regarding whether you need surgery will be had in a specialist clinic.
If you’re experiencing any gynaecological problems, such as the above mentioned symptoms, our experienced GP’s are here to help! We have eight private clinics across central London, so should always be here for you when you need to find a GP or GP surgery.