Yet another reason to always think twice before asking someone how far along they are!
Meet 24-year-old Raquel Rodriguez from Minnesota. Recently, she went viral for a TikTok she made displaying her ovarian cyst.
“I decided to post that video, honestly, because I just thought it was a funny/light use of the TikTok sound and my problems. I think in some way I was hoping to bring awareness and kinda get over my insecurity surrounding my bloated stomach,” Raquel told BuzzFeed.
Raquel Rodriguez / Via tiktok.com
Raquel went on to explain how her journey with this cyst started. She told BuzzFeed, “I found out I had an ovarian cyst about five years ago now. I was struggling with a really bad kidney infection that made me develop sepsis and really damaged my kidneys at the time. So I was always getting internal ultrasounds done. It was about the size of a softball at first, and it caused some concern but not enough to actually have a removal done back then. I had been going in every once in a while to get it checked, and it stayed mostly the same up until I suppose recently. I feel it’s gotten bigger pretty quickly.”
And, as evidenced in the many comments under her TikTok, Raquel is not alone in her experience with an ovarian cyst, not even one of this size! People from all over flocked to the comments to share their own experiences.
Since ovarian cysts are definitely a thing that people are experiencing, BuzzFeed sat down with Dr. Diane Horvath, an OB-GYN in Baltimore, to get more information on ovarian cysts.
For starters, an ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled pocket or sac on the surface of an ovary. Most often they’re related to the menstrual cycle — a follicular cyst forms when you’re about to ovulate, and a corpus luteum cyst can form after ovulation. According to Dr. Horvath, these cysts are usually small, and most go away on their own without causing problems — but occasionally they can become large enough to cause bloating or pain.
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And, occasionally, a cyst can break open and cause bleeding that results in abdominal pain. Other kinds of cysts, like dermoid cysts, cystadenomas, or endometriomas, are more rare and don’t usually resolve on their own. A very small percentage of ovarian cysts can be cancerous, though this is more common in people who have gone through menopause.
Dr. Horvath notes that while it is far less common to have an ovarian cyst that grows to a size that would make someone appear pregnant, it definitely does happen! There are even very rare cases where cysts weighed a hundred pounds or more at the time of removal.
And while most cysts are benign and will resolve without intervention, according to Dr. Horvath, it’s very important to pay attention to any symptoms that are severe or don’t go away with time. “Many of these symptoms are what we call ‘non-specific,’ which means they can be similar to symptoms we can get with other conditions, like bowel issues or bladder infections. Symptoms of ovarian cysts can be things like bloating, discomfort, pain with sex, or an expanding abdomen. Someone who experiences severe pain, especially if it happens suddenly, needs to seek emergency care. Sometimes cysts can cause a condition called ovarian torsion, which is when the ovary gets twisted around on its attachments in the pelvis. If this is not diagnosed and treated quickly (typically with surgery), then the ovary can lose its blood supply and may have to be removed.”
So how does one go about getting to the bottom of whether or not they have an ovarian cyst? According to Dr. Horvath, an ultrasound is usually the best method of diagnosing and measuring ovarian cysts. She continued, telling BuzzFeed, “Some cysts can be felt on pelvic examinations, but an exam alone isn’t usually enough for diagnosis and treatment planning. If you feel like your healthcare provider isn’t taking you seriously, it’s totally OK to get a second or third opinion. Even if your symptoms turn out to be caused by something other than an ovarian cyst, it’s important to rule out cysts as a possible cause.”
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And once you receive a diagnosis, treatment for cysts depends on things like size, appearance on ultrasound or MRI, desire for future fertility, age, family history, severity of symptoms, and patient preference. Dr. Horvath continued, “Often we will repeat an ultrasound after a brief period of time (like two to three months) to see if a cyst is growing, shrinking, or stable. Surgery is sometimes needed, but there are risks to surgery, and we reserve it for when conservative treatment doesn’t work, when there are worrisome symptoms, or if the cyst has a high likelihood of being cancerous. People who experience recurrent cysts related to ovulation can sometimes benefit from medications that temporarily stop ovulation (like birth control pills or injections).”
If you have any severe pain or nausea, bloating that doesn’t get better, increased abdominal size, or significant changes in appetite, it’s important that you discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. Dr. Horvath also wants readers to know that if you have had cysts in the past that have caused problems for you, you can definitely ask about medications that can prevent ovulation and might decrease your risk for cyst problems in the future.
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“Lastly, if you have a family history of breast, ovarian, uterine, or colon cancer, ask about cancer screening. While there isn’t a reliable screening test for ovarian cancer for the general population, there are people with genetic risk for certain cancers who can benefit from testing,” says Dr. Horvath.
For Raquel, she knows her journey with this particular cyst isn’t over yet, telling BuzzFeed, “My journey is far from over, but I’m really hopeful I will find a good doctor who will listen to me. Aside from my cyst, I think there are some other issues I have that may contribute to how I feel but have had no luck receiving a diagnosis (for endometriosis). However, I know research on endometriosis has come a long way in the last six years, so I’m hopeful on that end too.”
Ultimately, Raquel just wants people to know they aren’t alone. “I hope that everyone who watches my TikTok and has been through this or is going through something similar can feel some sort of comfort knowing that there’s a whole community out there. We deserve to feel heard, and no one should feel embarrassed about something they can’t control. For those who didn’t even know something like this could happen, I hope they leave this video and the comments feeling a little more educated and think twice about asking someone how far along they are, haha.”
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