The ovaries are the female reproductive organs that release one oocyte per month that usually measures 2-3 cm.
Ovarian cyst is considered an ovarian fluid collection >3cm in diameter. The cyst might have thin wall and contain only fluid (simple cyst) or it might be complex with thick fluid, solid elements or blood.
The ovarian cysts are common and usually benign. Most women are unaware that they have an ovarian cyst because usually these are asymptomatic.
However, 1 in 10 women might need to be operated for an ovarian cyst at some point in her life.
The correct assessment of the nature of an ovarian cyst (benign or malignant) is partly possible with the ultrasound examination that needs to be performed by an experienced specialized gynaecologist.
Common types of ovarian cysts before the menopause
The most frequent ovarian cysts during the woman’s reproductive years are functional cysts that are benign.
- Simple cyst
A simple cyst is usually a large follicle that continued to grow after the oocyte has been released. It is the most common type of cyst and usually it regresses in 1-3 months.
- Corpus luteum cyst
The corpus luteum is formed after the oocyte is released and its role is to procure hormones to prepare the ovaries for the next cycle. The cyst is formed if the corpus luteum does not shrink. It is usually asymptomatic or it might cause some dull ache. However, in rare cases a corpus luteum cyst could cause acute pelvic pain due to bleeding inside the cyst or due to ovarian torsion.
An endometrioma is an ovarian cyst that contains cells from the inside of the uterus (endometrium). It could be isolated or it could be associated with endometriosis in other pelvic organs. It is correlated with infertility and pelvic pain; however in some cases it is completely asymptomatic.
- Dermoid cyst
A dermoid cyst is a benign ovarian cyst that originates from the primitive cells that produce the follicles. The dermoid cysts usually have solid contain that is formed from hair and fat.
Taking into consideration the woman’s family history, the clinical examination findings and specific morphological features of the cyst on the ultrasound examination, we could estimate with great sensitivity if this is a benign or malignant cyst. This is crucial in order to decide if the cyst needs to be removed and if so, the type of surgery that needs to be performed.
Women who have a family history that increases their risk of developing ovarian cancer, it is recommended to have frequent gynaecological and ultrasound examination.