Ovarian Cysts After Hysterectomy

Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman’s uterus. Depending on your particular medical condition, your doctor may have decided to remove other parts of your reproductive system, such as your ovaries or fallopian tubes during the hysterectomy. If, after hysterectomy, your ovaries and fallopian tubes remain intact, it is possible for you to experience dysfunction of the ovaries and fallopian tubes that a woman with an intact uterus would experience.

Ovarian cysts can and do occur after a hysterectomy. Since you still have your ovaries, your body will continue to go through the normal monthly process of follicular growth, development and release of an egg. Your body will still release luteinizing hormones and the corpus luteum will still release estrogen and progesterone. The only difference is that you will not experience a monthly menstrual bleed, since a uterus is necessary for this to occur. With the normal cycles of hormonal release still occurring, it is possible that you may develop an ovarian cyst.

You may develop a functional cyst or a complex ovarian cyst after a hysterectomy. Although most ovarian cysts are benign, there is more chance of a complex cyst containing a malignancy than a simple cyst.

The signs and symptoms of an ovarian cyst after hysterectomy are similar to those you would experience if your uterus was intact. Menstrual irregularities will obviously not be noticeable to you, however if you are aware of when you ovulate, you may notice that pelvic or abdominal pain occurs during a characteristic phase of your cycle. You may experience pelvic pain that tends to radiate to your thighs and buttocks. Pelvic pain may also occur during sexual intercourse. Whilst pelvic or abdominal pain associated with an ovarian cyst is often a dull, throbbing pain, any sudden pain is indication that you need medical attention as soon as possible.

Your doctor will want to undertake many of the same tests that would be undertaken had you an intact uterus. Most importantly, your doctor will want to confirm that there is no malignancy associated with the cyst. A manual pelvic examination, supported by an ultrasound, will typically be carried out to learn more about your particular cyst. If it is confirmed that you have an ovarian cyst, a blood test for CA 125 antigen will also be routinely undertaken, to determine whether or not your cyst is malignant.

If your ovarian cyst is benign and only small in size, your doctor may recommend that you wait for a certain amount of time (up to two months) before having another series of tests. The second set of tests will show if and how much the cyst has grown. If your cyst has continued to grow over the period of several months, your doctor will likely recommend that it is removed.

Previous abdominal surgery, such as a hysterectomy, increases your risk of surgical complication for future surgeries. If your doctor wishes to surgically remove your ovarian cyst, you will need to talk about how your previous hysterectomy will change your risk for the current surgery. Depending on your age, your doctor may suggest that as well as removing the ovarian cyst, that your ovaries are also removed during your surgery. This is an important decision, as it will force menopause and all its associated symptoms on you.

It is important to talk with your doctor about the best options for you. As you age, and especially after menopause, your risk of an ovarian cyst being malignant is greatly increased. Although ovarian cancer is a relatively rare disease, it is important to understand your body and to make informed decisions about what happens to it.