One Individual's Experience With a 9-Pound Ovarian Cyst

At first, healthcare providers had difficulty determining where the cyst was growing.

Modern imaging techniques have made giant abdominal cysts rarer in recent decades. Cysts are sacs that fill with fluid or air and are different from tumors. Today, healthcare providers can spot cysts before they grow to be "giant."

While some cysts can cause weight gain, not all do. It all depends on what the cyst is filled with. Cysts that are filled with air will weigh less than cysts that are filled with fluid.

Difficulty in Diagnosing an Ovarian Cyst

A 2019 report in the journal BMJ Case Reports described a "giant abdominal cyst" that weighed almost nine pounds. The patient's stomach was so bloated that it kept them from easily reaching their feet and tying their shoelaces. An ultrasound of the abdomen and pelvis revealed a 21-centimeter cyst that was taking up most of the individual's abdominal area, and a CT scan suggested that it could have been coming from the patient's left ovary.

BMJ Case Reports

Where precisely the cyst was attached was still unclear after an MRI of the pelvis, and it wasn't until surgeons operated to remove it that its origins were determined.

General surgeons performed a laparotomy, which involved cutting into the abdominal wall and removing the cyst. It turned out that the cyst was benign, or non-cancerous, and had been attached to the patient's left ovary.

Types of Ovarian Cysts

There are numerous types of ovarian cysts. According to the Office on Women's Health (OWH), the two most common cysts are follicle cysts and corpus luteum cysts. The OWH also described many other types of ovarian cysts.

Per the OWH, follicle cysts occur when the follicle (the sac where the egg matures during a female's menstrual cycle) doesn't burst to release the egg. Instead, the follicle keeps growing into a cyst. Often, this type of cyst has no symptoms and goes away on its own.

Corpus luteum cysts are another cyst related to a female's menstrual cycle and also involve the follicular sac. In these cysts, the follicle bursts, and the egg is released. However, instead of the follicular sac shrinking, it reseals itself and becomes filled with fluid. Many of these cysts go away on their own. However, they can become larger, up to 4 inches, and cause bleeding and pain.

Another important thing to know about corpus luteum cysts is that they occur monthly. They are also responsible for producing the hormones that maintain a pregnancy until the placenta develops and eventually takes over.

Other benign (non-cancerous) cysts include endometriomas, dermoids, and cystadenomas. In the case of the patient described in the case report, the type of cyst they had was an ovarian benign serous cystadenoma. The OWH explained these cysts are filled with watery fluid and can grow to be large, as happened in the individual's experience.

How Much Cysts Weigh

The weight of a cyst is primarily determined by what the cyst is filled with. If a cyst is filled with air, it will weigh less than a cyst filled with fluid.

If you want to get a rough estimate based off the size of the cyst, you'll need to do some math. You can plug the radius (half the diameter) of the cyst into the formula for a sphere and multiply the result by the value for the density of water or the density of air to determine how much a cyst weighs.

Possible Complications of Abdominal and Ovarian Cysts

"Giant abdominal cystic masses are a rare occurrence and require resection due to its associated symptoms," the case report said. However, the list of complications that can be traced to such large cysts is long, including bowel obstruction, vomiting, pain, nausea, and distension (swelling).

Another complication includes rupturing, which can cause severe upper pelvic or lower abdominal pain, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

The other complication to be aware of is ovarian torsion. Torsion is the medical term for twisting. Ovarian torsion happens when the cyst gets so large that it causes the ovary to twist on its own blood vessels, sometimes halting the flow of blood. This complication requires emergency surgery. If not treated quickly, the twisted ovary can die and the person can get very sick and lose the ovary.

Ovarian Cyst Symptoms

While the patient's cyst was described as benign, that only means it wasn't cancerous. According to the OWH, benign ovarian cysts may still cause several symptoms. These include:

  • Pain in the pelvis or lower abdomen
  • Dull ache in lower back and thighs
  • Feelings of fullness and abdominal swelling
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain during your period
  • Irregularities with your menstrual cycle
  • Problems urinating
  • Having to urinate more often
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Tenderness in breasts

Of these symptoms, the OWH explained the most common symptoms include abdominal pressure, swelling, bloating, and pain. These symptoms are typically felt in the lower abdomen on the side where the cyst is located.

If a cyst twists or ruptures, it may cause sudden, severe pain, sometimes with nausea and vomiting. If this happens, an immediate visit to a healthcare provider is necessary. Per the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, treating a ruptured cyst may include simply keeping track of symptoms and taking pain medicine at home as needed.

However, surgery is necessary in some cases, especially when a ruptured cyst causes significant bleeding. This is why it is essential to connect with a healthcare provider who can determine the severity of the situation and treat it accordingly.

A Quick Review

Any of the above symptoms can be an indication of an abdominal or ovarian cyst. Again, the most common signs are abdominal pressure, swelling, bloating, and pain. Remember that complications like ovarian rupture and torsion will be extremely painful and require medical treatment.

If you are concerned that you have an ovarian or abdominal cyst, contact a healthcare provider. The provider can assess your symptoms and help determine your next steps.

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