Ovarian cysts - lumps

What is an ovarian cyst?

An ovarian cyst is generally a fluid filled space within the ovary. Ovaries normally make cysts every month to allow them to release eggs from within. These cysts normally burst to allow the egg to be released and move down the fallopian tube. Once the egg is released the cyst turns into a specialised support cyst called a corpus luteum. These cysts are designed to get the uterus ready for a pregnancy if fertilisation occurs and if this does not occur within 2 weeks of ovulation they also resolve. Both of these normally occurring cysts are called Physiological Cysts (naturally occurring). Generally these cysts do not get larger then a couple of centimetres and do not persist beyond 1- 2 cycles is repeated ultrasounds are performed. They account for the majority of cysts seen on ultrasound.

What types of cysts are there?

There are many types of cysts affecting the ovaries:

  • Physiological as above
  • Benign cysts – e.g. Dermoids (may contain hair, skin, teeth, cartilage and virtually any type of cell within the body
  • Endometriomas and Cystadenomas (Serous, Mucinous) are the most common types
  • Cancers – Primary – mostly commonly serous adenocarcinoma
  • Metastatic - (spread from another cancer to ovaries ) e.g. Breast or Bowel
  • Low malignant Potential tumours (Borderline tumours) – somewhere in between benign and malignant

What is the treatment?

Depending on history and examination if a cyst appears simple on imaging (i.e. there are no solid areas or internal complex features) then observation with a repeat ultrasound in 6- 8 weeks may be all that is necessary (this can usually be done within the rooms during your visit at Greenslopes Specialist Gynaecology).

Most other cysts if they are low risk can be dealt with conservatively (i.e. by just removing the cyst and conserving the ovary) by laparoscopy.

High-risk cysts particularly in the older age group may still be dealt with laparoscopically if appropriate but are generally removed along with the ovary question. Frozen section (a pathologist looks at the removed tissue while you are still asleep) is available for intraoperative assessment of these or any suspicious cysts or lumps so that any treatment that is necessary can be performed during the same procedure to minimise disruption to you.

Whatever the type of cyst and its nature rest assured that the appropriate steps will be taken with the minimum of fuss to ensure you get back to normal as soon as possible.