Gynecological issues don’t just happen in older women. Teen girls can experience many of the same problems, including ovarian cysts, which are fluid-filled pouches that can form on one or both ovaries.
The most common types of ovarian cysts are functional cysts. They are normal, even expected in young women, and are formed during the menstrual process. Conversely, nonfunctional cysts are not related to the menstrual cycle. Though most are benign, on rare occasions, some can become malignant, rupture, twist the ovary or grow large enough to cause symptoms, including:
• Pelvic pain during the ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle.
• Irregular periods.
• Bloating, swelling or a feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen.
Because many ovarian cysts cause little to no symptoms, they often are diagnosed by chance during other tests. If a young girl does have symptoms, her OB-GYN can use multiple tests to make a diagnosis. These may include a pelvic ultrasound, laparoscopy or blood tests to check hormone levels.
Treatment depends on a cyst’s size and severity. When a cyst is small, doctors may just monitor it with follow-up appointments and possible further ultrasounds. No intervention may be needed, as it may disappear on its own. In some cases, the doctor might prescribe hormonal medicine, like birth control, to stop more cysts from forming.
Larger or problematic cysts may need to be removed. Often, removal can be done with minimally invasive (laparoscopic) surgery by a gynecologist. The type of surgery that is needed depends on several factors, including the size and type of the cyst, the patient’s age and symptoms, among others.
While there is no way to prevent most ovarian cysts, regular pelvic exams help ensure that changes in the ovaries are diagnosed as early as possible. It’s important to stay alert to your body, and note any unusual menstrual symptoms, especially ones that go on for more than a few cycles.
With menstruation starting at the average age of 12 years, 9 months, girls should have their first gynecologist visit between the ages of 13 and 15, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Not only can a gynecologist help put a teen’s mind at ease, he or she also can diagnose issues like ovarian cysts early on, preventing potentially serious issues from developing into something worse.
– Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists, PC has seven OB-GYNs and five advanced practice providers, with offices in Canton and Woodstock.