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Women's Health

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Ovarian Cysts and Tumors

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How are ovarian cysts and tumors treated?

Most ovarian cysts will go away on their own. If you don't have any bothersome symptoms, especially if you haven’t yet gone through menopause, your doctor may advocate ''watchful waiting.'' The doctor won’t treat you. But the doctor will check you every one to three months to see if there has been any change in the cyst.

Birth control pills may relieve the pain from ovarian cysts. They prevent ovulation, which reduces the odds that new cysts will form.

Surgery is an option if the cyst doesn’t go away, grows, or causes you pain. There are two types of surgery:

  • Laparoscopy uses a very small incision and a tiny, lighted telescope-like instrument. The instrument is inserted into the abdomen to remove the cyst. This technique works for smaller cysts.
  • Laparotomy involves a bigger incision in the stomach. Doctors prefer this technique for larger cysts and ovarian tumors. If the growth is cancerous, the surgeon will remove as much of the tumor as possible. This is called debulking. Depending on how far the cancer has spread, the surgeon may also remove the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, omentum -- fatty tissue covering the intestines -- and nearby lymph nodes.

Other treatments for cancerous ovarian tumors include:

  • Chemotherapy -- drugs given through a vein (IV), by mouth, or directly into the abdomen to kill cancer cells. Because they kill normal cells as well as cancerous ones, chemotherapy medications can have side effects, including nausea and vomiting, hair loss, kidney damage, and increased risk of infection. These side effects should go away after the treatment is done.
  • Radiation -- high-energy X-rays that kill or shrink cancer cells. Radiation is either delivered from outside the body, or placed inside the body near the site of the tumor. This treatment also can cause side effects, including red skin, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. Radiation is not often used for ovarian cancer.

Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation may be given individually or together. It is possible for cancerous ovarian tumors to return. If that happens, you will need to have more surgery, sometimes combined with chemotherapy or radiation.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on September 30, 2014
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