Surgery to remove ovarian cysts may be recommended if it causes pain, or if it’s very large (in which case it may press on the bladder or other organs), or if it is thought a cyst could be cancerous.
Women who have already had the menopause have a slightly higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than pre-menopausal women. For this reason, post-menopausal women are usually recommended to have regular ultrasound scans and blood tests to carefully monitor ovarian cysts, before and several months after surgery.
The operation to remove cysts is called an ovarian cystectomy, and this is usually carried out as ‘keyhole’ surgery (laparoscopy). A cyst may be removed during a biopsy carried out to test whether or not the cyst is cancerous - the removed tissue will be examined in a laboratory after the operation.
The operation to remove an ovarian cyst (cystectomy) is usually carried out as day surgery, which means you’ll be able to return home on the same day, but you won’t be able to drive yourself.
The procedure will be carried out under a general anaesthetic so you’ll be asleep during the operation. An ovarian cystectomy can be carried out in two different ways; laparoscopically or by open surgery (laparotomy).
Most cysts can be removed using this ‘keyhole’ technique. Small incisions are made in your abdomen through which a laparoscope (a small tube with a camera) can be inserted so the surgeon can see and remove the cysts from your ovaries. At the end of the operation the incisions are closed using dissolvable stitches. The advantages of this keyhole method are faster recovery times and less pain.
This approach may be recommended if your cyst is large, or if it is suspected it could be cancerous. The laparotomy method uses a single, longer incision in the abdomen which offers the surgeon better access to the cyst. Sometimes the cyst and the ovary may need to be removed at the same time; the removed tissue will usually be sent for later analysis to see if it’s cancerous. The incision will be closed using either stitches or staples. As this is a more major procedure, you may need to stay in hospital for a few days after the operation.
After the removal of your ovarian cyst, you’ll feel some pain or discomfort which we’ll help manage with painkillers.
Following a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) you'll need to rest and avoid strenuous activities for a couple weeks. Laparotomy recovery takes a bit longer, usually between six and eight weeks.
If any tissue is sent for analysis, we’ll let you have the results as soon as they’re available - usually after a couple of weeks. We’ll also discuss the need for any further treatment, if required.
As with any operation, there is a small risk of bleeding or infection. After the removal of ovarian cysts, you should contact your doctor if you suffer from heavy bleeding, severe swelling or pain in the area of the operation, a dark or smelly discharge from your vagina, or a fever.
If an ovarian cyst doesn’t cause any unwanted symptoms, then treatment may not be necessary. It may simply be recommended to monitor its condition with, perhaps, regular ultrasound scans. If you’re under 50, many ovarian cysts disappear on their own, without treatment, over two or three months.