There are many different types, but an ovarian cyst is basically a fluid-filled sac that forms in your ovary. Ovarian cysts are common and many women don’t have any symptoms.
Ovarian cysts can come and go: these are called functional cysts, and they may not need treatment.
When they do happen, symptoms of an ovarian cyst can include:
- Pain in your lower abdomen
- Pain during sex
- Painful or irregular periods
- A feeling of pressure or bloating in your abdomen
- Needing to use the toilet more often
- Feeling full after small amounts of food.
Complications from an ovarian cyst can cause sudden, severe pain and this means you should see a doctor right away.
If your doctor suspects an ovarian cyst, they will start by checking your abdomen and doing a vaginal examination. You might also have an abdominal or vaginal ultrasound scan, or further tests.
If you need surgery for an ovarian cyst, the best procedure will depend on your individual situation. The main choices are:
- Keyhole surgery (laparoscopy), where your doctor makes some small cuts (incisions) in the abdomen. Using slender instruments that fit through these incisions, your doctor removes the cyst. The work is guided by a camera, which is held by the surgeon’s assistant. It shows the image on a large monitor in front of the surgical team.
- An open operation (laparotomy), where your doctor makes a larger, single incision in the abdomen. The ovary is carefully opened, and the cyst is freed off and lifted out.
Both the keyhole and open operations are called an ovarian cystectomy. Sometimes it is necessary to remove the entire ovary with the cyst, and your surgeon will explain the reasons for this. Removal of the ovary is called an oophorectomy.
These procedures are done under a general anaesthetic, which means you sleep through it.
After a keyhole operation, you should be able to go home the same day. You can expect to be back to your normal activities in a couple of weeks.
With an open operation, you may need to stay in hospital for a couple of days. You may be advised to wait six to eight weeks before returning to your full commitments, depending on your type of work.
Ovarian cysts often go away on their own, but sometimes an operation is needed. Some ovarian cysts get very large, or the symptoms might become too hard to live with.
Your doctor might advise surgery to prevent future complications.
It’s rare, especially before the menopause, but in a few cases the doctor needs to rule out ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cyst removal is a common operation and most women recover without problems. It’s possible to get an ovarian cyst again, even after an operation. Every effort is made to protect your fertility but in some cases it might be affected. Because they are near the ovaries, the bowel or bladder can be damaged
Any surgery has a risk of bleeding, blood clots, infection or a reaction to the anaesthetic. Your doctor will talk to you about the risks and benefits. Ask as many questions as you want to, until you feel comfortable with your decision.