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Medical Conditions Pelvic & Ovarian Tumors |
Tumors of the Pelvis and Ovaries
The pelvic tumor (a growth of the ovary or other tissues in the pelvis) is a common diagnosis affecting women of all ages. The human ovary can develop a large variety of tumors, most of which are not dangerous. Most ovarian tumors resolve over time, but removal of either tumor or of the entire ovary is sometimes necessary. Therapy for ovarian tumors can have a significant impact on the health of many women of reproductive age. As patients go beyond their childbearing years, there is a greater likelihood that an ovarian tumor may be the sign of cancer. It is important for you to be informed about how being diagnosed with an ovarian tumor will affect your life and whether you require specialized treatment.
The ovaries are located in the pelvis to the sides of the uterus, which is at the top of the birth canal. They are made of different types of cells that allow for the development and release of egg cells from the ovary. Every month as part of the menstrual cycle, ovarian hormones and the cells around the egg interact to form a small cyst (the follicle). When the follicle reaches the right stage of growth, the egg is released from the ovary and is ready to be fertilized. The cells involved in this process and all the other cells that make up the ovary are potential sources for ovarian tumors.
Most women with ovarian tumors have no symptoms, even when the tumor is quite large. The majority of tumors are detected during a pelvic examination by the patient's doctor. Women with symptoms may notice lower abdominal or pelvic pressure, pain, or difficulty with meals or use of the bathroom. When doctors suspect an ovarian tumor, patients are commonly asked to receive testing with ultrasound, to measure the tumor and to help determine what type of tumor exists.
In general, unless the tumors are large, abnormal in appearance, or cause symptoms, no treatment for ovarian tumors is necessary. The vast majority of ovarian tumors are benign (non-cancerous) fluid-filled cysts that will disappear after one or two months. Tumors that are solid, very large, painful, or do not resolve after a period of observation may require removal. Gynecologic Surgeons are often able to remove the tumor and leave the normal ovarian tissue undisturbed. This can be important for women in their childbearing years, to allow normal hormonal function and reproduction. However, treatment may require removal of one or both ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and even the uterus (hysterectomy). This can often be done with small instruments and a special camera used through very small incisions (laparoscopy).
Are all tumors cancer?
No. Concern for the presence of ovarian cancer increases when tumors:
- occur in women who are very advanced in age
- are accompanied by tumors in other locations (such as liver or lung)
- cause large collections of fluid in the abdomen, weight loss, or bowel symptoms
Tumors that are likely to be cancer require evaluation by a surgeon who is certified and has years of specialized training in Gynecologic Oncology. The diagnosis of an ovarian tumor is common. Women should receive annual examinations and communicate closely with their doctors.
Important questions for you to discuss with your doctor if you are diagnosed with an ovarian or pelvic tumor include: