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Ovarian Pain: Possible Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments

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Ovarian Cysts continued...

Other symptoms of ovarian cysts:

  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Pain during intercourse or bowel movements
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling full after eating a small amount
  • Bloating

How ovarian cysts are diagnosed

  • Pelvic exam. This exam may reveal a lump in the pelvic area.
  • Ultrasound. This scan uses sound waves to create an image of the ovaries. This helps the doctor determine the size and location of a cyst.

Treatment of ovarian cysts

  • Watchful waiting. 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. Instead, the doctor might check you periodically to see if there has been any change in your condition.
  • Laparoscopy. This is a form of surgery that uses small incisions and a tiny, lighted camera on the end of a plastic tube that's inserted into the abdomen. A surgeon can use tools on the end of the tube to remove some cysts. This technique works for smaller cysts. Larger cysts, though, may need to be removed through a bigger incision in the abdomen. This is done with a technique called laparotomy.
  • Birth control pills.Birth control pills may relieve the pain from ovarian cysts. They prevent ovulation. That, in turn, reduces the formation of new cysts.

Ovarian Tumors

Tumors can form in the ovaries, just as they form in other parts of the body. They can be either noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).

Other symptoms of ovarian tumors

  • Bloating or pressure in the abdomen
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain

How ovarian tumors are diagnosed

  • Computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET). These are detailed imaging scans that the doctor can use to find ovarian tumors. They allow the doctor to determine whether and how far the ovarian tumors have spread.
  • CA-125. This is a blood test to look for a protein that tends to be higher in some (but not all) women with ovarian cancer. CA-125 isn't effective as a screening test for ovarian cancer. But it can be checked in women with symptoms that might be caused by ovarian cancer.

Treatment of ovarian tumors

  • Laparotomy. This is surgery performed through an incision into the abdomen. The surgeon will remove as much of the tumor as possible. The removal of tumor tissue is called debulking. If the tumor is cancerous and has spread, the surgeon may also remove the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, omentum (fatty tissue covering the intestines), and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy involves drugs given through a vein (IV), by mouth, or directly into the abdomen. The drugs kill cancer cells. Because they kill normal cells as well, chemotherapy medications can have side effects. These can include nausea and vomiting, hair loss, kidney damage, and increased risk of infection. These side effects should go away after the treatment is stopped.
  • Radiation. This treatment uses high-energy X-rays to 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. These can include inflamed skin, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. Radiation is not often used to treat ovarian cancer.
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