06 April 2018
Miss Shirin Irani is a Consultant Gynaecologist at Spire Parkway Hospital in Solihull, Birmingham West Midlands. Here she answers questions on ovarian cysts – how to spot them and what treatments are available.
What are ovarian cysts?
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on a woman's ovary. Most occur naturally and disappear in a few months without the need for treatment. They are very common and in the vast majority of cases don’t actually cause any symptoms.
When, where and how do they develop?
Functional ovarian cysts are linked to the menstrual cycle and affect pre-menopausal women. Each month, a woman's ovaries release an egg, which travels along the fallopian tubes into the womb. Each egg forms inside the ovary in something called a follicle. This follicle contains fluid that protects the egg as it grows and then bursts when the egg is released from the ovary.
If a follicle doesn't release an egg, or doesn't discharge its fluid and shrink after the egg is released it can swell and become a cyst.
Pathological cysts are caused by abnormal cell growth and aren't related to the menstrual cycle. They develop from either the cells used to create eggs or the cells that cover the outer part of the ovary.
What are the symptoms?
An ovarian cyst usually only causes symptoms if it ruptures, is very large, or blocks the blood supply to the ovaries. It can cause pelvic pain ranging from a heavy sensation to a sudden, sharp stabbing pain. It can also cause pain during intercourse. Other symptoms include bloating, a frequent need to urinate and difficulty emptying the bowels.
How are they treated?
Surgery is not necessary for most cases but may be carried out if cysts are large, causing uncomfortable symptoms or are potentially cancerous. As post-menopausal women have a slightly higher risk of ovarian cancer, regular ultrasound scans and blood tests are usually recommended for a year after treatment.
Are there any potential complications caused by ovarian cysts?
Ovarian cysts don't usually prevent you from getting pregnant, although they can sometimes make it harder to conceive. If an operation is necessary the surgeon will aim to preserve your fertility whenever possible. However, in a very small number of cases, surgery to remove both your ovaries may be necessary, in which case you will no longer produce any eggs.
Q: How quickly could I have a consultation, and how much would it cost?
A: It depends on the availability of the consultant you wanted to see, but we pride ourselves on getting you fast access to diagnosis and you can often get a consultation within 24/48 hours. Initial consultation fees vary by consultant, but between £175-£250 is a reasonable guide.
Q: If I need surgery, how quickly could I have it?
A: We have no waiting lists at Spire Parkway, but again it depends on the availability of the consultant you wanted, but as a guide, and subject to your pre-operation assessment, between one and two weeks.
Q: I don’t have health insurance, can I self-pay?
A: Yes, you can. Our self-pay team can talk you through this and explain the finance options that are available, should you wish to explore them. Call 0121 704 5530, or click here to submit an enquiry online.