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  OVARIAN CYSTS: THE PREDICAMENT OF A FRIEND

botchway June 10, 2019

 

 

By Christiana Serwaa Kusi

My first time hearing the word “Ovarian Cyst” was just last year when I took a friend to the hospital because she wasn’t feeling well. That was around late last year and she has been complaining for a very long time of sharp abdominal pains but she thought it was normal.

Fast forward to today, I realized that not many people know about the disease and how dangerous it can be when not treated early. Some people haven’t even heard of the word and to be honest I’m not that surprised because up until last year, I didn’t even know a word like that existed.

I have been hesitant about bringing this up because I will definitely use my friend as case study, and I felt she wouldn’t be at ease especially for it to be published. I later sought her permission and further explained why I need people to hear about her story and also educate women especially of this disease.

Ovarian cysts just like the name says, has to do with the ovary. They are sacs of fluid that can grow in or on the ovaries. They usually form during ovulation, when the ovary releases an egg. A cyst is a closed sac-like structure. It is divided from surrounding tissue by a membrane. It is an abnormal pocket of fluid, similar to a blister. It contains either liquid, gaseous, or semi-solid material.

Truth is, they are usually harmless and go away by themselves as most women have them sometime during their lives but might not even notice it. However, the fact remains that it can be dangerous because, most ovarian cysts are small and may not cause any symptom hence one may not find out that they have them until a pelvic exam has been conducted.

The actual problem starts when the cysts doesn’t disappear and that was the case of my friend. In most cases, it becomes cancerous when the cysts don’t disappear. After sending my friend to the hospital, the doctor said it might be appendices so she was given some medicines and we left. About a week later, she called again that she needed my help and that her pains have become serious. I blamed her for not taking her medicines, knowing the kind of friend I had but it wasn’t her fault.

After running some tests at the hospital, the doctor said she had ovarian cysts and it’s growing rapidly. Due to the rapid growth of the cysts, the doctor referred her to a gynecologist. That was when I realized that her situation has become critical. The gynecologist asked her to book an appointment for the following ng week and by the time she saw her the following week, the cyst has doubled in size again. The gynecologist recommended a surgery to remove the cyst.

What happened to my friend made me realized that there was a lot most women and I don’t even know about our own bodies. I took the time to ask the doctors some questions and did some researches on my own. I actually learnt something and want to share.

Women have two ovaries — each about the size and shape of an almond — on each side of the uterus. Eggs (ova), which develop and mature in the ovaries, are released in monthly cycles during the childbearing years. Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs or pockets in an ovary or on its surface. Many women have ovarian cysts at some time. Most ovarian cysts present little or no discomfort and are harmless. The majority disappears without treatment within a few months.

Most of the time, cysts develop in pre-menopausal women. But it’s still possible to get them even when you are passed your menopausal women, perhaps especially in the earlier post-menopausal years. In fact, one 2010 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology concluded that they might be fairly common. After looking at the transvaginal ultrasound test results of nearly sixteen-thousand women who were older than fifty-five, the researchers found that about fourteen percent of the subjects had a cyst at their first screening. About one-third of those cysts disappeared the following year. The bottom line: Ovarian cysts still make an appearance in women after menopause.

There are types of ovarian cysts that can affect women however, the two most common types of ovarian cysts (called the functional cysts) form during the menstrual cycle. They are usually benign (not cancerous);

  • Follicle cysts: in a normal menstrual cycle, the egg grows inside a tiny sac called a follicle. When the egg matures, the follicle breaks open to release the egg. Follicle cysts form when the follicle doesn’t break open to release the egg. This causes the follicle to continue growing into a cyst. Theses cysts have no symptoms and go away in one to three months.
  • Corpus Luteum Cysts: once the follicle breaks open and releases the egg, the empty follicle sac shrinks into mass of cells called corpus luteum. This makes the hormones to prepare for the next egg for the next menstrual cycle. Corpus luteum cysts form if the sac doesn’t shrink. Instead, the sac releases itself after the egg is released. Then fluid builds up inside. Most corpus luteum cysts go away after few weeks, but they can grow to almost four inches wide. They also may bleed or twist the ovary and cause pain.

 

Now the most common causes of ovarian cysts include;

  • Hormonal problems: functional cysts usually go away on their own without treatment. They may be caused by hormonal problems or by drug used to help you ovulate.

 

  • Endometriosis: this happens when the lining of the uterus (womb) grows outside of the uterus. Women with endometriosis can develop a type of ovarian cysts called endometrioma. The endometriosis tissue may attach to the ovary and form a growth. These cysts can be painful during sex and during your period as a woman.

 

 

  • Pregnancy: an ovarian cyst normally develops in early pregnancy to help support the pregnancy until the placenta forms. Sometimes, the cysts stay on the ovary until later in the pregnancy and may need to be removed.

 

  • Severe pelvic infections: infections can spread to the ovaries and fallopian tubes and cause cysts to form.

Most cysts are symptomless. If symptoms are present, they are not always useful for diagnosing an ovarian cyst, because other conditions, such as endometriosis, have similar symptoms.

Symptoms of an ovarian cyst may include:

  • Irregular and possibly painful menstruation: It may be heavier or lighter than before.
  • Pain in the pelvis: This may be a persistent pain or an intermittent dull ache that spreads to the lower back and thighs. It may appear just before menstruation begins or ends.
  • Dyspareunia: This is pelvic pain that occurs during sexual intercourse. Some women might experience pain and discomfort in the abdomen after sex.
  • Bowel issues: These include pain when passing a stool, pressure on the bowels or a frequent need to pass a stool.
  • Abdominal issues: There may be bloating, swelling, or heaviness in the abdomen.
  • Urinary issues: The woman may have problems emptying the bladder fully or she may be feeling the need to urinate frequently.
  • Hormonal abnormalities: Rarely, the body produces abnormal amounts of hormones, resulting in changes in the way the breasts and body hair grow.

Some symptoms may resemble those of pregnancy, for example, breast tenderness and nausea. If you have some severe symptoms like sharp pain with nausea and vomiting, you need to see a doctor right away. Also, an ovarian cyst often causes no problems, but sometimes it can lead to complications.

  • Torsion: The stem of an ovary can become twisted if the cyst is growing on it. It can block the blood supply to the cyst and cause severe pain in the lower abdomen.
  • Burst cyst: If a cyst bursts, the patient will experience severe pain in the lower abdomen. If the cyst is infected, pain will be worse. There may also be bleeding. Symptoms may resemble those of appendicitis or diverticulitis.
  • Cancer: In rare cases, a cyst may be an early form of ovarian cancer.

If you have symptoms of ovarian cysts, your doctor may do a pelvic exam to feel for swelling of a cyst on the ovary. If a cyst is found, your doctor will either watch and wait or order tests to help plan treatment. The tests include

  • Ultra sound which uses waves to create images of the body. With ultra sound, your doctor can see where and how big the cyst is.
  • Pregnancy test to rule out pregnancy and also blood tests
  • Hormonal level tests to see whether there are hormone-related problems

Treatment will depend on:

  • the person’s age
  • whether they have undergone menopause or not
  • the size and appearance of the cyst
  • whether there are any symptoms

Your doctor can may want to perform surgery to remove the cysts if you are past menopause or if your cysts doesn’t go away, gets larger, looks old or causes pain.

There is no way to prevent ovarian cyst growth. However, regular pelvic examinations will allow for early treatment if needed. This can often prevent complications.

  • Also, ovarian cysts — especially those that have ruptured — can cause serious symptoms. To protect your health, get regular pelvic exams and know the symptoms that can signal a potentially serious problem.

To conclude, my friend did have her surgery twice and a month later, she was informed that she was safe and no longer had ovarian cancer. I was super excited for because she had been through a lot and I for once thought that I wouldn’t have to send her to the hospitals any more due to my dislike for hospitals. My friend on the other hand has learnt much about herself, about life and she hopes that from her personal experience and journey with ovarian cysts, she can help other people.

 

 

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