A women’s ovaries are two small organs located on either side of her uterus, or womb. During a woman’s reproductive years, each ovary produces a mature egg every month. The eggs grow in follicles, or sacs, in the ovaries. On the fourteenth day of a woman’s menstrual cycle ovulation occurs and the eggs are released from the ovaries, travel through the fallopian tubes, and into the uterus.
What Are Ovarian Cysts? Ovarian cysts are fluid filled sacs that develop in the ovaries. Such growths are quite common occurrences in the reproductive years prior to menopause. Most often, ovarian cysts are benign and disappear over the course of a few menstrual cycles. They may cause symptoms such as pain and tenderness, but most grow and disappear without noticeable symptoms.
Occasionally, a cyst may grow larger and require surgical removal. The incidence rate for ovarian cysts drops after menopause. However, postmenopausal growths have a higher chance of malignancy. The vast majority of both premenopausal and postmenopausal cysts are, however, benign. The ovulation cycle page explains how the growths develop.
Who Gets Ovarian Cysts? Women in their reproductive years have the highest chance of developing ovarian cysts. Ethnicity plays a role in susceptibility rates: Caucasian women are most likely to develop them, followed by Hispanic and Japanese women. After age seventy, incidence rates in African-American women begin to more closely resemble those of Caucasian and Hispanic women. Regardless of ethnicity, any woman has the potential to develop ovarian cysts.
With the development of ultrasound technology, diagnosis rates for ovarian cysts have risen sharply. Almost a hundred percent of women who have a transvaginal ultrasound exhibit evidence of cysts. The same test reveals evidence of the condition in over fourteen percent of postmenopausal women.
The Cancer Connection. Ovarian cancer is a rare malignancy that affects fifteen out of every 100,000 women. On average, 23,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. Of this number, the disease proves fatal in more than half of all cases. A woman’s risk of ovarian cancer increases between the ages of fifty and seventy.
When a growth is discovered, the fear of cancer can make the diagnosis quite frightening. However, the vast majority of ovarian growths are simply benign cysts, and only a small percentage of cases are malignant, even in postmenopausal women.
Gynecology and You. Gynecology is the study of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries and the uterus. A gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in gynecological disorders. Your regular doctor may refer you to a gynecologist if symptoms indicate a problem with your ovaries.