There are different kinds of masses that can form in the female reproductive system; they include fibroids, cysts and polyps. All too often, these very different masses can be confused for one another. A cyst is very different from a polyp or a fibroid. So we'll demystify cysts for you because although fibroid and polyp growths are generally benign, cysts are often malignant and could be potentially life threatening.
Types of Cysts
A cyst is a fluid-filled or solid pocket that can form in the uterine wall, ovaries or even on your cervix. Thus there are three different types of cysts:
1. Ovarian Cyst
When the cyst forms in or on your ovary it is called an ovarian cyst. The most common type of ovarian cyst is a functional cyst. Generally function cysts form during your monthly menses. Other less common forms of cysts that can form on the ovaries are endometriosis, cystadenomas, dermoid cysts, or polycystic ovaries. Generally, most functional ovarian cysts are benign but some can become malignant growths that lead to ovarian cancer. In addition to being potentially cancerous, cysts often burst. This is particularly of concern for larger cysts because the large amount of material released from the cyst can travel to other parts of the body causing blood-poisoning and/or possibly other illnesses as well.
2. Cervical Cyst
If the cyst forms on your cervix it is called a cervical cyst. These are usually not cancerous. They form as a result of normal epithelial tissue growing over the mucous-secreting glandular tissue of the inner part of a woman's cervix. Generally these types of cysts do not cause any symptoms and as a result often do not require treatment. If the cyst does become large and cause pain there are treatment options available to treat the cyst. For instance, a doctor may recommend its removal or drainage of the cyst to alleviate the symptoms.
3. Uterine Cyst
When a cyst forms in the uterine wall it is generally called a fibroid even though they don't follow the usual structure of a cyst; a fibroid tends to be formed out of muscular tissue from the uterus.
How to Tell if It's a Cyst
If you have a small cyst you may experience dull or very mild aching pain. Large cysts however can twist the surrounding tissues causing severe stabbing and shooting pains. Women with cysts usually do not experience unusually heavy bleeding as a result of the growth. Heavy menstrual bleeding is usually characteristic of a polyp or fibroid.
How is a Cyst Diagnosed & Treated?
This guide is not definitive in any way in determining whether or not you have a cyst. Instead, we recommend that you see a doctor for a definitive diagnosis. Many women will have some sort of cyst develop at some point in their life. Fortunately, most cysts disappear without the need for treatment. Your doctor will perform one or more vaginal ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, laparoscopy and/or blood tests to determine if the mass is a cyst and whether or not it's cancerous.
To treat the cyst, your doctor may recommend birth control pills or surgery. Generally if the cyst is small the cyst will be surgically removed. For large ovarian cysts, however, they can threaten your health if they burst and as a precaution, the entire ovary is usually removed during a surgical procedure.