Ovarian Cysts and Uterine Fibroids - Symptoms and Treatment

Aside from endometriosis and congenital anomalies, ovarian cysts and fibroids are two more common conditions that can impact fertility and a woman’s ability to conceive.

Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled cavities within the ovary that may develop as part of the follicle which forms monthly with the developing egg. After ovulation the follicle becomes a corpus luteum which makes progesterone. Either a follicle or a corpus luteum can form a cyst (follicular or corpus luteum cysts). There also are benign (non-cancerous) and rarely (cancerous) cysts which can form in the ovary. If gynecological surgery intervention is needed, the cyst can be removed laparoscopically, a procedure where a surgeon uses small incisions (5-10mm) to insert tiny instruments into a patient’s abdomen and perform the operation.

Ovarian cyst symptoms are often asymptomatic but can include:

  • pelvic pain
  • pelvic pressure
  • abdominal enlargement
  • bowel or bladder symptoms

Ovarian cyst treatment:

  • Watch and wait; the cyst may go away without treatment
  • If gynecological surgery is needed, the cyst can be removed laparoscopically in a procedure called cystectomy or the ovary can be surgically removed (oophorectomy).

Learn more about reproductive gynecological surgery.

Uterine Fibroids

Fibroids, also known as uterine leiomyomas, are non-cancerous tumors arising from the myometrium (smooth muscle layer) of the uterus. Other names for these tumors include fibromyomas, fibromas, myofibromas, and myomas.

Fibroids are the most common solid pelvic tumors in women. They can be found in up to 70 percent of women, but only cause symptoms in approximately 25 percent of reproductive age women. They are usually found in women during their 30’s and 40’s, and typically shrink in size after menopause. Fibroids are two to five times more common in black women than white women. The average affected uterus has six to seven fibroids.

Fibroids are classified by their location in the uterus. Subserosal fibroids are located just under the outer layer of the uterus. Intramural fibroids are found within the uterine wall; they can distort the uterine cavity or the outer shape of the uterus. Submucous fibroids are located in the uterine cavity. Ninety-five percent of fibroids are subserosal and intramural, while the remaining five percent are submucosal.

Benign fibroids (uterine leiomyomas) rarely become malignant (leiomyosarcomas). Many researchers and physicians believe this transformation never occurs. Uterine leiomyosarcomas are found in approximately 0.1 percent of women with fibroids and are often associated with large or rapidly growing fibroids. Diagnosis of malignant fibroids can only be made after examining tissue of the uterus.

Learn more about symptoms, diagnosis and fibroid treatments:

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