How Ovarian Cysts Are Diagnosed and Treated

Your doctor's task is to do enough investigation of possible ovarian cysts in order to establish a differential diagnosis. In other words, he or she has to determine whether or not your symptoms are caused by an ovarian cyst, or something else.

In order to do this, some technical procedures may be required. After diagnosis, there is a limited array of treatment options.

Diagnosis of an Ovarian Cyst

Pelvic Exam

An ovarian cyst may be discovered by your doctor during a pelvic exam, while she is palpating your
ovaries. If a cyst is suspected, an ultrasound is usually the next step.

If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or if you're menopausal, it's more likely that your doctor will order a pelvic ultrasound or laparoscopy. Your doctor may also order a CA-125 blood test for cancer, although that test is NOT specific for ovarian cancer.

Pelvic Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a painless procedure where sound waves are transmitted through your pelvic area and an image of your ovaries and uterus is shown on a video screen.

The image is analyzed to determine the nature of the cyst (fluid-filled, solid or mixed), as well as its size, shape and location.

Pelvic Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a painless procedure where sound waves are transmitted through your pelvic area and an image of your ovaries and uterus is shown on a video screen.
The image is analyzed to determine the nature of the cyst (fluid-filled, solid or mixed), as well as its size, shape and location.

Laparoscopy

Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure performed when your doctor wants to see the cyst. A thin, lighted telescope, called a laparoscope, is inserted through a small incision into your abdomen.

Laparoscopy may be used for treatment as well as diagnosis.

How Ovarian Cysts are Usually Treated

"Watchful Waiting"

If you have no symptoms and ultrasound shows a small, fluid-filled cyst, your doctor may simply schedule another pelvic exam and ultrasound in six weeks or so.

The concept behind watchful waiting is to not actively treat the cyst unless it does not go away as your hormones change. An unchanging or growing cystic ovary needs further investigation. If a cyst persists longer than a few months, and if it is worthy of attention, hormone therapy or surgery may be the next steps.

Birth Control Pills

If you have a functional cyst that is larger in size and causing some symptoms, birth control pills may be prescribed.

The purpose of birth control pills is to stop you from ovulating. If you can't ovulate, it is thought your cysts are less likely to grow. Birth control pills may reduce the probability of other cysts growing.

Surgery

Your cyst may be surgically removed if it is 5 centimeters in diameter or larger.

Or, surgery may be required if the cyst is solid or filled with debris, persistently growing, irregularly shaped, or causing pain or other symptoms.

If the cyst is not cancerous, it can be surgically removed without also removing the ovary. This is called a cystectomy.

In some cases, your doctor may want to remove the affected ovary, while leaving the other ovary intact in order to maintain your ability to have a normal hormone cycle.

Pain Relief

Sometimes, a pain killer medication may be prescribed, or an over-the-counter pain control pill may be recommended.  This only provides temporary symptomatic relief and should not be relied upon for long-term care.

Alternative Treatments

Surgery or birth control pills are the usual treatment.  However, you do have other treatment options to consider.

The best alternative way to deal with cysts is to prevent them in the first place. You can do this with improved lifestyle habits and a healthier diet, according to the medical research.

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