Myths and Facts About Ovarian Cysts

During your menstrual cycle, an egg grows inside a sac within your ovaries. If the sac fails to release an egg, or it recloses and fails to shrink after releasing one, it can develop into a fluid-filled ovarian cyst. Ovarian cysts occur frequently, affecting 8-18% of premenopausal and postmenopausal women

Unfortunately, ovarian cysts can be confused with ovarian cancer, so myths and misinformation cause confusion about the true nature of ovarian cysts and what the condition involves. You may have ovarian cysts if you have irregular periods, pelvic pain, and pain after sex, though many ovarian cysts occur can without symptoms. 

If you’re concerned about having an ovarian cyst, it’s important to get a thorough pelvic exam for an accurate diagnosis. Board-certified OB/GYN Samuel D. Van Kirk, MD, of Redding, California, provides expert care for women of all ages who require treatment for ovarian cysts. With the use of an in-office ultrasound, Dr. Van Kirk can determine the presence and condition of an ovarian cyst and recommend appropriate treatment.

Find out what you can expect if you’re diagnosed with this condition as we debunk some common myths about ovarian cysts. 

Myth No. 1: Ovarian cysts cause infertility

An ovarian cyst that forms as part of a normal menstrual cycle is called a functional cyst. This type of cyst rarely cause problems with fertility. Functional ovarian cysts typically disappear on their own within a few menstrual cycles without intervention. 

In rare cases, a functional ovarian cyst can prevent normal ovulation or present a physical obstruction to the fertilization process. This can occur if the cyst grows very large and blocks a fallopian tube. In this case, Dr. Van Kirk will remove your ovarian cyst surgically.

In some cases, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome can cause different types of ovarian cysts that can affect fertility.

Myth No. 2: Ovarian cysts are a sign of ovarian cancer

Most ovarian cysts aren’t cancerous. They’re filled with fluid from your ovaries, not cancer cells. Having an ovarian cyst doesn’t increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer. However, your risk of developing a cancerous cyst or ovarian cancer can increase after menopause because your risk for developing cancer increases during this stage of life. 

Women who develop an ovarian cyst after age 50 may benefit from having the cyst surgically removed. This can allow Dr. Van Kirk to examine the cyst to rule out a cancer diagnosis or identify the presence of cancer and begin treatment as early as possible.  

Myth No. 3: Ovarian cysts require surgical removal

Most ovarian cysts go away in 1-3 months without surgical removal. Depending on the condition of your cyst and other health considerations, Dr. Van Kirk may advise to keep it under examination to make sure it goes away within a few months.

While most cysts disappear without treatment, some can bleed or burst. Signs of a ruptured cyst can include severe pelvic pain, fever, dizziness, or rapid breathing. Urgent medical treatment and surgical removal may be required.

Myth No. 4: Surgical removal of ovarian cysts requires open surgery

The size, location, and condition of your ovarian cyst will determine the type of surgery used for removal. Dr. Van Kirk may use laparoscopy for removal of a small cyst that’s not potentially cancerous. This procedure involves making a small cut just below the navel and using a laparoscope, a long, thin instrument with a camera on the end, to extract the cyst through your abdomen.

Larger cysts may require a laparotomy, a procedure that involves making a large cut across your abdomen. This procedure also may be used if cancer is suspected, since the larger cut will allow for a hysterectomy if a biopsy identifies cancer during surgery. 

Myth No. 5: Ovarian cysts cause abdominal pain

While abdominal pain can occur with some ovarian cysts, most functional ovarian cysts don’t include severe symptoms. As a result, you may not realize you have one until it’s discovered during a pelvic exam. 

As ovarian cysts grow, they may cause physical changes in your abdomen or pelvic area. These changes may cause bloating, abdominal fullness after eating, or pain during intercourse. 

While most ovarian cysts don’t have symptoms, ovarian cysts associated with endometriosis typically cause pain before, during, and after your monthly period, which is a symptom of the chronic disease. 

To find out more about ovarian cysts and your risk of developing this condition, book an appointment online or over the phone with Samuel D. Van Kirk, MD today.

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