What are ovarian cysts?
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on a woman’s ovary.
Part of the normal process of releasing an egg from your ovary is the development of follicles on your ovaries. A follicle is a tiny fluid filled sac. When the follicle bursts it releases an egg. Sometimes this monthly process goes wrong. If the follicle does not burst it may become a follicular cyst. This cyst may grow and fill with more fluid and perhaps blood. It can also secrete hormones that upset your menstrual cycle. An ovarian cyst develops.
Sometimes the cyst and ovary twist around the stalk that holds them. This twisting is called torsion and it can be very painful. If torsion stops the blood to your ovary it may die and need to be removed.
An ovarian cyst may be a benign tumour. A common benign tumour that appears on an ovary is a dermoid cyst. Dermoid cysts come from primitive skin tissues that have been present in the ovary from birth. The fluid inside is sebaceous material, like in a blackhead, and often contains hair. Dermoid cysts are more common in younger women, sometimes in both ovaries. Other cysts can be malignant tumours. These cancerous tumours are more often seen in older women. They vary in size but can be large, fifteen centimetres or more, before being detected.
Ovarian cysts are very common and can affect women of any age. It is estimated that virtually all women who still have a monthly period, and 1 in 5 women who have been through the menopause, will have one or more ovarian cysts. Ovarian cysts that cause symptoms are much less common, affecting only 1 in every 25 women at some point in their life.
In most cases, cysts are harmless and usually disappear without the need for treatment. However, if the cyst is large or is causing symptoms, it will probably have to be surgically removed. Removing it reduces the risk of the cyst becoming cancerous later on.
What happens during a laparoscopic ovarian cystectomy?
A laparoscopy is a type of keyhole surgery where small cuts are made in your lower abdomen and gas is blown into the pelvis to lift the wall of the abdomen away from the organs inside.
A laparoscope, which is a small, tube-shaped microscope with a light on the end, is passed into your abdomen so that the surgeon can see your internal organs. Using tiny surgical tools, the surgeon will be able to remove the cyst through the small cut in your skin.
After the procedure, the cuts are closed using glue. The operation takes about half an hour to perform, depending on the size and type of cyst. Most women can go home on the same day as the operation.
A laparoscopy is the preferred approach, as opposed to a laparotomy (where a larger incision is made) because it causes less pain, helps to preserve fertility and lets you resume normal activity sooner.
Preparing for the operation
The procedure is done under general anesthetics. You may eat normally the day before surgery but it is important that you have no food after midnight on the evening before. You can drink plain water until 6am but you should have nothing to eat or drink from 6am.
You will probably be able to go home the same day as your operation, or after a short overnight stay in hospital.