Why is the diagnosis important?
The search for a diagnosis to explain ovarian cysts should be done with complete awareness of all of the possibilities. Ovarian cysts can result from a devastating process such as ovarian cancer, or may be simply normal, enlarged follicles in a young patient who is ovulating. The reason for the cyst(s) must be determined in order to provide appropriate medical care.
Do cysts cause problems?
Most ovarian cysts are small and do not cause problems, especially if a woman is in its natural reproductive age. However, larger cysts may cause problems even if they are simply reproductive (physiological) cysts. Pain and swelling with bloating in the abdomen are the first signs. A simple pelvic exam can provide information about the size of the cyst(s) and their location. An ultrasound exam can determine the exact size and the relative likelihood of the cyst being a normal, reproductive cysts versus a potential cancer.
Some tests to help the diagnosis include:
- Radiographic tests including ultrasound, CAT scan, and MRI.
- Clinical pelvic examination
- Laboratory tests including CA-125 serum concentrations. In almost 70% of women who have benign ovarian cysts, the concentration is within average limits. For malignant cyst(s), there were higher concentrations of serum CA-125 identified. Unfortunately, 30-65% of ovarian tumors cannot be identified by serum CA-125 concentrations.
- Vaginal ultrasonography is considered the most accurate modality for diagnosis. In most cases, the prediction of a benign versus a malignant cyst is possible.
- Ovarian cytology is a very reliable way to know the state of ovaries. Fluid can be withdrawn from the ovary and sent for special tests.
- Ovarian pathology – this is the definitive method of determining if the ovary is benign or malignant, but of course this requires a biopsy or removal of the ovary.
Polycystic ovaries are one of the concerns for patients after tubal reversal. Even after a tubal reversal surgery, some patients will have problems with ovarian cysts that cause them to have difficulty in getting pregnant. Some women may not succeed in becoming pregnant after tubal reversal surgery because they do not ovulate regularly. This can be due to cystic ovaries. After tubal reversal surgery, close monitoring is needed to evaluate the fertility of women who have difficulty getting pregnant.