Cancer

Ovarian Tumors and Cysts Overview

Ovaries are organs coming in pairs and are positioned on both sides of the woman’s uterus. Having an important role of hormone excretion as well as being the main carriers of fertility, every problem related to them needs to be taken seriously. An egg is released once every month, which is a process known as ovulation. Cysts and tumors are both fairly common issues related to ovaries and it is important to understand what are these conditions and what can you do to get over them.

Causes of Ovarian Tumors

As any other body tumor, ovaries tumor can start within the ovary. We know three types of tumors which affect ovaries:

  • Germ Cell Tumor – most of these are benign and they usually start inside the egg producing cells
  • Epithelial Cell Tumor – most common type of ovary tumor; usually starting on the surface of the ovary which is affected
  • Stromal Tumor – starts within cells which have a task of producing estrogen and other female exclusive hormones

Up to this point we don’t really know what’s causing ovarian tumor, but we do know quite a bit of risk factors which can have a significant effect on initiation:

  • Clomid and other fertility drugs
  • Obesity
  • Excessive alcohol consummation and smoking
  • Any hormone replacement supplements
  • Age and genetic predisposition

Causes of Ovarian Cysts

Cysts in general represent small bags which can form inside the ovary and get filled with liquid. We know about several types of these cysts, most of which form during ovulation:

  • Cystadenomas – starts on the surface of the ovaries, commonly filled with fluid
  • Polycystic Ovary – starts when egg fails to mature, opening a space for the cyst to form
  • Dermoid Cysts – these cysts contain tissues very similar to those found in your epidermis (teeth, hair etc.)
  • Endometriomas – a very painful form of cysts, also affecting fertility

Symptoms of Ovarian Tumors and Cysts

Commonly, cysts come with no symptoms whatsoever, as long as there is no stress being put on them. They can cause problems and pain if they start bleeding or twisting. Here is a list of symptoms which can be closely related to either ovary cysts or ovary tumors:

  • Significant weight gain
  • Vomiting, noxiousness
  • Dull pain in the back
  • Urination problems
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Loss of appetite

Diagnosis

Since ovaries are relative close to the belly skin, it is possible to detect any significant growths or lumps with a physical checkup. In most cases, any lumps found this way will be benign, indicating no serious health problems as long as they are not ruining your fertility.

  • Women in menopause are at high risk from this and should be checked for any suspicious lumps around ovaries. Here is a list of tests which are commonly used for detecting ovaries cysts or tumors:
  • Laparoscopy – a surgical procedure which is also effective in treating ovarian cysts, rather than being a good tool for diagnosis. A thin device is probed into your belly, revealing any foreign tissue and allowing the technician to take a sample of it for biopsy.
  • Hormonal Levels – a couple of hormones are checked – LH, FSH, estradiol as well as testosterone.
  • CA-125 – this is a protein which can be found in blood and this test is usually done when there is a suspicion about the tumor being cancerous. If there is a cancer present, the CA-125 protein levels should be higher than normal.
  • Ultrasound and other imaging tests – these tests all use different types of waves to detect and recognize any lumps and foreign bodies on the ovaries. CT, MRI, PET are all highly efficient methods of discovery as well as regular ultrasound.

If there is a case of an ovary cancer, it is important to determine whether it has metastases as this affects further treatment significantly. All of these results can help the doctor find a proper treatment regime in order to get the most out of it.

Treatment

Cysts tend to disappear on their own, which is a good thing because in most cases you won’t even be aware that you ever had ovarian cysts. Depending on how severe your symptoms are, if there are any, you may use birth control pills to relief yourself from pain. By preventing ovulation from happening they also prevent any new cysts from creating.

If the cysts are intense and tend to multiply, then the best mean of solving the issue is a surgery, of which we know two types:

  • Laparatomy – gives the doctor access to your ovaries in which case they may be removed. It works equally well for tumors and cysts. If the cancer has spread onto other surrounding organs, you might need to have all of them removed in order to save your life.
  • Laparascopy – a method of treatment we’ve already mentioned before, using a thin probe to gain a close up access to the ovaries and any cysts that may be on there; allows for easy and quick solution of the smaller cysts.
  • Chemotherapy – a method of treatment where drugs and medications have the most important role. These can be given intravenously or directly into the ovaries to kill the cancer cells where they stand. It is usually followed by a whole list of intensive symptoms on its own like kidney damage, hair loss and is considered to be last line of defense.
  • Radiation therapy – a method of treatment where high energy beams are used to kill cancer cells on the ovaries and any surrounding organs. This is another method which causes very intensive symptoms and should be carefully taken into consideration if the problem is really life threatening.

In some cases combined types of therapy work best especially in a case of recurring cancers. This is where radiation therapy may have the highest efficiency as it has the widest spread so it affects all of the surrounding tissues as well.

About the author

Rani Vyas

Rani Vyas

I'm a Medical Consultant Doctor with a keen interest in Medical bioinformatics and genuinely intriguing way of presenting boring medical knowledge in an enchanting and eye catching way.

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