Vague symptoms need checked, warns medic

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THE clinical director and consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Belfast’s Ulster Hospital said many women are unaware they are living with ovarian cysts.

“Some women experience discomfort, but others have more vague symptoms,” said Dr David Glenn.

“By vague I mean abdominal bloating, a pressure feeling in the pelvis or discomfort during intercourse.

“I would encourage all women experiencing any of these symptoms to get them checked out.

“They need to go to their GP and have an examination - which can be very reassuring.”

Dr Glenn said the “vast majority of ovarian cysts are not cancerous”.

“A simple examination and if necessary, an ultrasound scan and a blood test, can be done to reassure the patient that it is not cancer,” he added.

“For the small number that are cancerous, if it is caught early the treatments are excellent.

“However in a lot of cases it is left too late.

“The message is really if they have swelling and discomfort down below they need to get to the GP, get examined and get reassurance or treatment.

“The cervical smear test will not detect ovarian cysts, but it is routine practice at a smear test for nurses to do a pelvic examination which would alert them

to an abnormality.”

Dr Glenn said he “operates not infrequently on young women whose ovarian cysts have left them in a depressed state”.

He said: “They try dieting but to no avail. However, part of the weight gain is the ovarian cyst. In some cases they can even be left bed bound.

“These cysts can end up around the size of a toddler child. Once removed the patients recover very well. The smaller cysts can even be removed by key-hole surgery.

“Although often found in young women, larger cysts are also found in menopausal women. The growth of the cyst can sometimes be put down to weight gain associated with middle-aged spread.”

The leading medic said he believed many women deferred getting checked out, after experiencing symptoms, “because they worry about it being an unpleasant experience”.

“Most women cope very well with the examination which only takes a few minutes,” he said.

“The second reason would be that their symptoms are vague and they often put it down to other common ailments.

“Often the growth is the size of a three month pregnancy before they are aware that something is not quite right.

“It is common for women to experience vague symptoms and to put it down to having eaten too much or another minor problem. My advice to these women is to make an appointment and discuss the symptoms with their GP.”