What exactly is an ovarian cyst?
Ovarian cysts are sacs that develop in or on the ovary. Ovarian cysts can grow pretty big, ranging from the size of a peanut to a grapefruit, or larger. Let's explore the many types of ovarian cysts:
The ovary is made up of tiny sacs that contain eggs. Every month, one of the sacs fills up with fluid and then bursts to release the egg. That's called ovulation. When the sac fails to release the egg, it lingers on as an ovarian cyst, and eventually disappears. Sometimes, the ovarian cyst sac becomes filled with fluid or blood and then bursts suddenly under tension. That's the pain of ruptured ovarian cyst. If you've ever had one of these, you'll agree the pain is absolutely awful.
After ovulation when the egg is released, the egg sac could also form an ovarian cyst that produces hormones to support the early pregnancy. This is called a corpus luteum cyst.
An "endometrioma" is a type of ovarian cyst found in a woman with endometriosis. We also call these "chocolate cysts." That's because of the brown colored stuff that collects inside of it.
Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – may have small tiny cysts around the ovaries. These remain small and cannot be removed or treated. It's just the way the ovary looks and this helps us make the diagnosis of PCOS.
Dermoid cysts are commonly found in women between age 20 and 40 years. The picture shown in this article is actually a dermoid cyst. Guess what's inside? Teeth, hair, and fat. How did they get there? It's a long story. Most dermoid cysts are benign, not cancerous, but they should be removed surgically.
Other non-cancerous ovarian cysts can grow and, depending on their size, should be evaluated for surgical removal especially if they won't go away on their own.
Ovarian cancer is always a possibility when looking at any abnormal growth on the ovary. The ultrasound pictures and lab tests can help us determine how likely an ovarian cyst is to be cancer, and help us make a decision about how to proceed.
All ovarian cysts should be evaluated until we both know all is well.