Women have two almond shaped organs on either side of the uterus known as ovaries. While males produce new sperm throughout their reproductive lives, women have their lifetime supply of eggs in their ovaries when they are born.
Ovaries hold and release the eggs to be fertilized and when things don’t go just right, follicular ovarian cysts will often form.
Follicular ovarian cysts are the most common type. The follicle is the normal, fluid filled sac that contains the egg before it is released. Sometimes the follicle will grow larger than normal when it doesn’t open and release the egg, forming a cyst.
Cysts can be so small that they are only detectable with a microscope or they can become so large that they displace other organs.
Follicular ovarian cysts are almost always benign and they resolve on their own without any treatment. They are usually found in women of menstruating age due to their association with the reproductive system and are considered “functional”. That means they occur during a woman’s reproductive years and are not disease related.
Many women with follicular ovarian cysts never experience any symptoms. Those that do may complain with a constant, dull aching in the pelvic region, pain with intercourse, during bowel movements, before or after their menstrual period, and abnormal uterine bleeding. That can include a shorter or longer menstrual cycle or absent menstrual periods. Abdominal bloating or swelling can also be present.
Functional cysts normally go away without treatment but birth control pills are sometimes prescribed to establish normal cycles and reduce your risk of developing more cysts in the future. Sometimes cysts will become extremely large without resolving themselves and those may need to be removed with laparoscopy
Cysts that form after menopause are not follicular ovarian cysts and they are not function. In fact, they are termed “nonfunctional” since the woman is no longer of a reproductive age. Women who have gone through menopause no longer produce eggs or develop follicles which will turn into cysts.
Ovarian cysts should not form after menopause and special attention should be given to any that do. Most gynecologists will want to do a thorough evaluation and continue monitoring them for changes.
A nonfunctional cyst can cause abdominal pain, changes in bladder and bowel movements, back pain and bloating. These are symptoms that you should always have checked out. Often, an ovarian cyst after menopause will be treated with hormones to stimulate the resolution during cyclical functions that normally resolve functional cysts.
The concern with this type of cyst is cancer and if cancer is present, it will not resolve under these conditions. It is important to catch the condition early to increase the chance of survival if the cyst is cancerous so it is imperative for any woman who is post-menopausal to report any of the symptoms associated with an ovarian cyst.
If you do experience a cyst on your ovary after menopause, many doctors will opt to remove it immediately rather than risk ovarian caner.
Whether you are having post-menopausal or follicular ovarian cysts that have grown extremely large removed from your ovaries, the procedure will almost always be laparoscopy.
This is a procedure where a tiny hole is made in your abdomen and it is less invasive than traditional surgical techniques making it a simpler procedure for you to endure and recover from.