A woman’s ovaries play a critical role in the female reproductive system. Ovaries located in the left and right side of a woman’s body are essential to a healthy menstrual cycle as well as fertility. Like most organs of the body, the ovaries can develop cysts over time—sometimes posing a significant health danger, and sometimes benign.
Ovarian cysts are pockets of fluid that develop inside an ovary or on the outer surface. Ovarian cysts are common and many women will experience them over the course of their lifetime. Most cysts are harmless, cause no pain, and resolve on their own without medical treatment. But some pose problems of a more severe nature. Rupturing, when a cyst bursts suddenly, can present serious complications and as such women should see their doctors for yearly pelvic exams and be aware of possible symptoms to watch for.
There are a few symptoms that warrant immediate medical attention. If you experience anything listed below, or anything that feels severe, see your doctor immediately or get emergency medical attention.
A woman’s relative health, age, and the size or type of her cyst, along with the symptoms she is experiencing will determine how her doctor approaches treatment.
Most of the time doctors will choose to watch the cyst over regular appointments to see if it resolves on its own. She or he may order ultrasounds to monitor the growth of the cyst. In some cases medication may be prescribed. Hormonal contraceptives may, in some women, restrict cysts from recurring. A doctor may order surgery to remove the cyst in severe cases, or when the cyst is large, causing pain, or if there is a suspicion of cancer. Ovarian cystectomy is the removal of a cyst that leaves the ovary intact. And in cases of cancerous masts, doctors may refer patients to a specialist for possible hysterectomy, chemotherapy, or radiation. Fortunately for most women, ovarian cysts resolve on their own and pose no problems, but it is critically important to be fully evaluated by a doctor if cysts develop.
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