Cysts and Cancer – The Banes of the Ovaries
Ovaries are where eggs (ova) develop and mature within the female body. There are two located on either side of the uterus. Two significant issues that can develop in the ovaries are ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer.
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac or pocket, and they are actually common. There are several types of ovarian cysts, and many form during or after normal biological processes. Most are filled with some type of fluid, including blood. Most women don’t even know they have them, because they are often painless and harmless.
Symptoms can be vague or mimic other conditions, such as: cancer of the ovaries, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, and at times, even appendicitis and diverticulosis.
Complications of cysts include pressure on other organs, bleeding, or rupture, which can lead to infection. Some symptoms necessitate you see your doctor as soon as possible. These are pain accompanied by fever or vomiting, or sudden, sever abdominal or pelvic pain.
Other symptoms include:
- Pelvic pain during intercourse
- Pelvic pain right before your period begins
- Pelvic pain, unrelated to any one circumstance, that is a dull ache, and can radiate to your lower back or thighs
- Pain or pressure felt during your bowel movements, or pressure on your rectum or bladder
- Fullness or heaviness in your abdominal area
- Symptoms that mimic pregnancy; nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness
- Menstrual irregularities
While most cysts require no treatment, but some do. Birth control pills can be taken to keep new cysts from forming. Surgery may be required if they too large, causes pain or other symptoms, or continues to grow through two or three menstrual cycles. If cysts are forming on one ovary, that ovary can be removed.
Ovarian cancer has no clear cause at this time. It can begin in the cells outside of the ovaries, in the egg-producing cells, or in the hormone-producing cells. The cancer type determines prognosis and treatment, as does the cancer stage once discovered.
Risk factors include: a previous cancer diagnosis, increasing age, never having been pregnant, a family history of cancer in the ovaries, or use of hormone replacement therapy.
As with ovarian cysts, symptoms of ovarian cancer can mimic other conditions. If cancer is present, the symptoms are usually persistent, and will get worse over time.
Common signs and symptoms are:
- Pelvic pain or discomfort
- Changes in bowel or bladder habits
- Loss of appetite, feeling full quickly, or persistent indigestion, gas, or nausea
- Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling, or bloating
- Lower back pain
- Lack of energy
- Increased abdominal girth
Be sure to see your doctor for any signs or symptoms that concern you.
Surgery is often a required treatment. Usually both ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the uterus are removed. Also, the adjacent lymph nodes, omentum (fatty fold of abdominal tissue), and any other cancerous areas in the abdomen are removed. Chemotherapy is often used after surgery, and these drugs kill any remaining cancer cells. If the cancer is advanced, chemotherapy may even be used before surgery.
Filed under: Ovarian Cysts
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