Let’s talk about ovarian cysts, uterine polyps and uterine fibroids. These are a few common conditions that can affect women and be related to hormonal changes and/or linked to the menstrual cycle. As women, we deal with a lot of stressors, and one of those can be trying to match our symptoms with the right diagnosis. Cysts, polyps, and fibroids may present similarly when it comes to symptoms such as stomach or abdominal pain, however, there are some important differences between the three conditions.
Ovarian cysts are fluid filled sacs that form on one or both ovaries and most commonly form during ovulation.1 Uterine polyps are growths attached to the lining of the uterus that most commonly occur in women who are going through or have completed menopause. Although most polyps are usually benign, some can be precancerous or cancerous.2 Uterine fibroids are growths of the uterus ranging in size from a seedling to bulky masses that can appear in various locations. It is possible that high levels of estrogen and progesterone may promote the growth of fibroids, as the two hormones stimulate the development of the uterine lining during each menstrual cycle.3 Fortunately, fibroids are not cancerous and almost never develop into cancer.3
Let’s discuss these three conditions more in depth and provide you with the tools and resources to have informed conversations with your doctors.
How May They Affect Me?
Many women will experience ovarian cysts at some point in their life and most disappear on their own with little to no discomfort. Two categories of cysts exist, functional cysts and other cysts, which are not related to the normal function of your menstrual cycle. Functional cysts, the most common type of cysts, are usually harmless, and generally do not affect fertility. However, endometriomas, cysts caused by endometriosis, and ovarian cysts resulting from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may be associated with fertility problems. There are also a few risk factors for ovarian cysts such as, hormonal problems, pregnancy, endometriosis, severe pelvic infection, and previous ovarian cysts. In some cases, ovarian cysts can rupture and cause serious symptoms like sudden severe abdominal or pelvic pain.1 If you ever experience any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.
Occasionally uterine polyps can go unnoticed, or only cause light spotting in between menstrual cycles, but more commonly they cause irregular, unpredictable periods that vary in length and heaviness, excessive menstrual bleeding, and bleeding after menopause. Although it is rare, it is important to know that polyps may impact fertility. Uterine polyps are also estrogen-sensitive, meaning they grow in response to circulating estrogen, so naturally, being perimenopausal or postmenopausal may increase your risk for polyps.2
Some women who have fibroids never experience any symptoms, but common symptoms can be severe and include, but are not limited to, heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain and pressure, and constipation. Typically, uterine fibroids do not interfere with getting pregnant, but it is possible that fibroids, specifically a type call submucosal fibroids, could have an impact on fertility. Certain risk factors can increase your chances for developing fibroids such as your family history. It is also a condition that disproportionately impacts Black women, as Black women are more likely to have fibroids and experience worse symptoms than other women.3
What Can I Do?
Many times, ovarian cysts will dissolve on their own with no action required on your end. However, if your ovarian cyst or cysts do not go away within a few months your doctor might recommend a hormonal birth control pill to help prevent them from recurring. In more severe cases, some cysts may need to be removed surgically.1
If your doctor suspects you may have uterine polyps, a common method of diagnosis is hysteroscopy, which allows your doctor to examine the inside of your uterus.2 Additionally, during hysteroscopy, it is possible for your doctor to remove the polyps, while keeping your uterus intact, through a quick and minimally invasive tissue removal procedure called hysteroscopic myomectomy. Uterine fibroids can also be removed during this type of procedure.
Thanks to the advancements in technology and increased research, uterine fibroids can be treated through a slew of options, from medications to uterus sparing minimally invasive procedures. In addition to hysteroscopic myomectomy, there are other options for fibroid treatment you can discuss with your doctor, including laparoscopic radiofrequency ablation (Lap-RFA), a minimally invasive, uterine sparing treatment option that delivers heat directly into the fibroid and can relieve fibroid symptoms over time.4
If you are experiencing symptoms similar to those of cysts, polyps, or fibroids, you should talk to a doctor about the treatment options that might be right for you: https://bit.ly/2UKSpvr
1 Mayo Clinic – Ovarian Cysts – mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-cysts/symptoms-causes/syc-20353405
2 Mayo Clinic – Uterine Polyps – mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-polyps/symptoms-causes/syc-20378709
3 Mayo Clinic—Uterine Fibroids—mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-fibroids/symptoms-causes/syc-20354288
4 Chudnoff SG, Berman JM, Levine DJ, Harris M, Guido Rs, Banks E. Outpatient procedure for the treatment and relief of symptomatic uterine myomas. Obstet Gynecol. 2013;121(5):1075-1082. doi:10.1097/AOG.0b013e31828b7962
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
The Acessa ProVu system is intended to identify and shrink symptomatic uterine fibroids. The Acessa ProVu system is used by trained physicians during laparoscopic surgery under general anesthesia. Rare but serious risks of this procedure include, but are not limited to, infection, internal injury, blood loss and complications related to laparoscopic surgery and/or general anesthesia. This procedure is not recommended for women who are planning future pregnancy. This information is not medical advice. Please discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor to find out if the Acessa procedure may be right for you.
MyoSure tissue removal system is intended to remove unwanted tissue from the uterus. During a MyoSure procedure, a trained gynecologist inserts the MyoSure device through your vagina and then removes the unwanted tissue from inside the uterus. Use of the MyoSure system is not appropriate for patients who are or may be pregnant, or have signs or symptoms of a pelvic infection, cervical cancer, or previously diagnosed uterine cancer. As with any surgical procedure, there are potential risks including but not limited to internal injury, excessive bleeding, and complications related to anesthesia. Temporary side effects may include cramping, bleeding, fever, and nausea. This information is not medical advice. Please discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor to find out if the MyoSure procedure may be right for you.