Pediatric Ovarian Tumors
Ovarian cysts are common in teenage girls. These are usually normal cystic structures that arise during the normal monthly cycle. Ovarian tumors are benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) masses that form on one or both of a girl’s ovaries.
Girls have two ovaries located on either side of their reproductive system. The ovaries produce hormones, and store and release eggs. Tumors can form on one or both ovaries, often occurring in clusters.
The cause of ovarian tumors is unknown, but research has shown the following risk factors are linked to an increased chance of developing them.
- Age – a child’s risk increases as they become older
- Age of first menstruation (period) – on average, girls begin their cycles at age 12. The earlier the beginning of the cycle, the higher the risk.
- Family history – children with close relatives, especially their own mothers, who have had breast or ovarian cancer.
- Total number of ovulations – the more ovulation cycles a girl experiences, the higher her risk. This can be impacted if she has been on birth control or has been pregnant.
- Weight – girls with higher body mass indexes have an increased risk of developing ovarian tumors.
The following symptoms have been associated with ovarian tumors:
- Back pain
- Bloating or abdominal swelling
- Fatigue (feeling tired)
- Feeling unusually full
- Frequent urination
- Pain in the pelvis (below the stomach and in between hip bones) or abdomen (between the chest and the pelvis)
- Palpable mass (a hard lump)
- Upset stomach or heartburn
- Vaginal discharge
Should the cyst enlarge to an abnormal size it may require excision. Saving the ovary is possible in benign tumors. Often, this can be done with a minimally invasive (laparoscopic) approach that saves the associated ovary. If the cyst is very large an open operation may be required to remove it.
Ovarian tumors and cysts occasionally cause twisting of the ovary and fallopian tube. In these cases, they are found when a patient is evaluated for abdominal pain. Twisted ovaries require prompt surgery to prevent damage to the ovary from lack of circulation.