Growth in your uterus
Ovarian cysts and fibroids are harmless but occur in most women.
R ecently, I went for a thorough general medical check-up. this included an ultrasound of my pelvis. the doctor told me I had both an ovarian cyst and some large fibroids. What are these and what is the difference between them? Let’s start with ovarian cysts. These are fluid-filled sacs or pouches either inside or on the surface of your ovary.
Fibroids are tumours of the uterus. But before you get worried, these are non-cancerous growths that often appear when your womb is in its child-bearing years. They are also called leiomyomas and they almost never develop into cancer.
Where are my ovaries in relation to my womb?
Your ovaries and womb (uterus) are all part of your female reproductive system. The female reproductive system consists of external structures and internal (unseen) structures. The external structures are your labia majora, labia minora (the lips), the Bartholin’s glands which produce mucus and the clitoris. The internal structures are: 1) Vagina – this is a canal which joins your cervix, which is the lower part of your womb. It connects your womb to the external organs and allows sperm to enter the womb. It is also your birth canal.
2) Uterus (womb) – this is a hollow, pear-shaped organ which houses your foetus once you get pregnant. It is divided into the cervix, the lower part and the main body, which is called the corpus. The uterus can expand to hold a baby.
3) Fallopian tubes – these are tubes which are attached to the uterus. They serve as passages for your ova (eggs) to travel from the ovaries to the uterus. Fertilisation of an egg by a sperm usually occurs in the Fallopian tubes.
4) Ovaries – these are small, oval-shaped glands which are located on either side of the uterus and are joined to it by the Fallopian tubes. Their function is to produce eggs and the female reproductive hormones.
How can I tell if I have ovarian cysts? Are they dangerous?
Ovarian cysts are very common. In fact, most women have them at some time during their lives. Most of the time, you cannot tell if you have an ovarian cyst because they do not present with any symptoms and they are harmless. Most of them actually disappear without treatment in a few months. But sometimes, a large ovarian cyst can give rise to a lot of complications.
It can become very large and swell your abdomen. I have seen ovarian cysts which are large enough to make the woman believe that she was pregnant. Ovarian cysts can give rise to: Irregular menstruation Pain in your pelvis which may be constant or occurs shortly before your period begins and just before it ends
Pain in your pelvis during sexual intercourse
Pain or pressure during bowel movements
Nausea, vomiting and breast tenderness as well as the type of symptoms experienced during pregnancy
Fullness or heaviness in your abdomen
Pressure upon your bladder, causing you to urinate more frequently
All these symptoms require medical attention. An ovarian cyst may also rupture, which is a medical emergency.
Why do ovarian cysts form?
Your ovaries grow cyst-like structures called follicles every month as part of your menstrual cycle. The follicles produce estrogen and progesterone and rupture to release an egg each time you ovulate. Then they normally involute.
When a follicle keeps on growing and doesn’t rupture to release an egg, it becomes a follicular cyst. When it does release an egg, but the egg doesn’t get released for some reason and the follicle seals off, trapping the egg inside, it becomes a corpus luteum cyst.
Both follicular cysts and corpus luteum cysts are usually harmless. They disappear on their own within three months.
There are other cysts which are not part of your menstrual cycle, however. They may develop from the other structures in your ovary. These can become very large, causing your ovary to move out of the pelvis and increase the chance of its stem being twisted. This is called ovarian torsion.
this sounds scary!
It is. Cysts that are very large can be subject to this, and it is an excruciatingly painful complication that requires you to seek medical attention immediately. Another complication of an ovarian cyst is its rupture, which can cause severe pain and internal bleeding.