An ovarian mass refers to any lump, cyst or tumor in the ovaries. Some cysts and masses in or on the ovaries are benign, while others can be cancerous and life-threatening. The treatment for an ovarian mass will depend on the cause. Options for treatment can range from surgery to birth control pills, from chemotherapy to narcotic pain killers.
It is normal for women to get some ovarian cysts throughout their lifetime. Each month while the ovaries go through the egg-releasing process, it is possible for a cyst to form. Many small cysts may go undetected and disappear on their own. Women usually will only begin to suspect that they have an ovarian mass when they start to experience painful symptoms. Typical symptoms of an ovarian mass include pelvic pain, bladder pressure, irregular periods and nausea.
When a doctor discovers or suspects an ovarian mass during a pelvic exam, he or she will do more testing to determine how the cyst needs to be treated. Tests can include a pelvic ultrasound, a blood test and a biopsy. The fluid content, shape and size of a cyst can help a medical professional determine if a cyst may be cancerous.
If test results indicate a benign cyst caused by the normal ovulation process, a doctor may choose to leave the cyst alone and simply prescribe the patient pain killers to ease the discomfort until the cyst clears up naturally. When a patient's quality of life is being impacted by a benign cyst, surgery can be performed to remove the mass. Some women who chronically experience small, painful cysts may be placed on birth control pills to help reduce the chances of future cyst formation.
Cancerous masses need more serious and immediate treatment. Chemotherapy is one option for ovarian cancer patients. Both oral and intravenous (IV) chemotherapy drugs are available. Side effects of chemotherapy can include hair loss, nausea and fatigue.
Other treatments are available as an alternative to chemotherapy. Radiation therapy can be used to destroy cancer cells. Side effects of radiation treatment include bloody stool and nausea. Surgery also can be performed to remove the ovaries or the entire uterus. The surgical option can be devastating for childless women who were hoping to have children down the line.
Women should get gynecological examinations done yearly. There is no guaranteed way to prevent an ovarian mass, but early detection can leave a woman with more treatment options. Women should always call their doctor when they experience persistent pelvic pain or irregular vaginal bleeding.