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Health Library - Fallopian Tubes & OvariesFallopian tubes illistration

The fallopian tubes are a pair of tubes found in every female mammal. These two tubes, sometimes referred to as the oviducts or uterine tubes, are found in the pelvic cavity, running between the uterus and the ovaries. Approximately three to four inches long, the fallopian tubes are not directly attached to the ovaries. Instead, the tubes open up into the peritonial (abdominal) cavity, very close to the ovaries.

The ovaries are magnificent glands which are part of the female reproductive system. The ovaries are about the size and shape of an almond and sit just above the fallopian tubes -- one ovary on each side of the uterus. Every month during ovulation, either the right or left ovary produces a single mature egg for fertilization.

Fallopian Tube & Ovary Disorders

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer usually happens in women over age 50, but it can also affect younger women. Its cause is unknown. Ovarian cancer is hard to detect early.

The sooner ovarian cancer is found and treated, the better your chance for recovery. But ovarian cancer is hard to detect early. Many times, women with ovarian cancer have no symptoms or just mild symptoms until the disease is in an advanced stage and hard to treat. Symptoms may include:

  • Heavy feeling in pelvis
  • Pain in lower abdomen
  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Abnormal periods
  • Unexplained back pain that gets worse
  • Gas, nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite

Treatment is usually surgery followed by treatment with medicines called chemotherapy.

Ovarian cysts

An ovarian cyst is a sac filled with fluid that forms on or inside of an ovary. This article is about cysts that form during your monthly menstrual cycle, called functional cysts. Functional cysts are not the same as cysts caused by cancer or other diseases.

For more information about other causes of cysts on or near the ovaries, see also:

  • Dermoid cyst
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome - PCOS is a health problem that can affect a woman's menstrual cycle, ability to have children, hormones, heart, blood vessels and appearance.

Causes

Each month during your menstrual cycle, a follicle (where the egg is developing) grows on your ovary. Most months, an egg is released from this follicle (called ovulation). If the follicle fails to break open and release an egg, the fluid stays in the follicle and forms a cystcyst.This is called a follicular cyst.

Another type of cyst, called a corpus luteum cyst, occurs after an egg has been released from a follicle. These often contain a small amount of blood.

Ovarian cysts are somewhat common, and are more common during a woman's childbearing years (from puberty to menopausemenopause). Ovarian cysts are less common after menopause.

No known risk factors have been found.
Functional ovarian cysts are not the same as ovarian tumors (including ovarian cancerovarian cancer) or cysts due to hormone-related conditions such as polycystic ovary diseasepolycystic ovary disease.

Taking fertility drugs can cause a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation, in which multiple large cysts are formed on the ovaries. These usually go away after a woman's period, or after a pregnancy.

Symptoms

Ovarian cysts often cause no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they are typically pain or a late period.

An ovarian cyst is more likely to cause pain if it:

  • Becomes large
  • Bleeds
  • Breaks open
  • Is bumped during sexual intercourse
  • Is twisted or causes twisting (torsion) of the Fallopian tube

Symptoms of ovarian cysts can include:

  • Bloating or swelling in the abdomen
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Pain in the pelvis shortly before or after beginning a menstrual period
  • Pain with intercoursePain with intercourse or pelvic pain during movement
  • Pelvic pain -- constant, dull aching
  • Sudden and severe pelvic pain, often with nausea and vomiting, may be a sign of torsion or twisting of the ovary on its blood supply, or rupture of a cyst with internal bleeding

Changes in menstrual periods are not common with follicular cysts, and are more common with corpus luteum cysts. Spotting or bleeding may occur with some cysts.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

What is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic (pah-lee-SIS-tik) ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a health problem that can affect a woman's:

  • Menstrual cycle
  • Ability to have children
  • Hormones
  • Heart
  • Blood vessels
  • Appearance

With PCOS, women typically have:

  • High levels of androgens (AN-druh-junz). These are sometimes called male hormones, though females also make them.
  • Missed or irregular periods (monthly bleeding)
  • Many small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in their ovaries

How many women have PCOS?

Between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women of childbearing age has PCOS. As many as 5 million women in the United States may be affected. It can occur in girls as young as 11 years old.

What causes PCOS?

The cause of PCOS is unknown. But most experts think that several factors, including genetics, could play a role. Women with PCOS are more likely to have a mother or sister with PCOS.

A main underlying problem with PCOS is a hormonal imbalance. In women with PCOS, the ovaries make more androgens than normal. Androgens are male hormones that females also make. High levels of these hormones affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation.

Researchers also think insulin may be linked to PCOS. Insulin is a hormone that controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy for the body to use or store. Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their bodies because they have problems using it. Excess insulin appears to increase production of androgen. High androgen levels can lead to:

  • Acne
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Weight gain
  • Problems with ovulation

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

The symptoms of PCOS can vary from woman to woman. Some of the symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Infertility (not able to get pregnant) because of not ovulating. In fact, PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility.
  • Infrequent, absent, and/or irregular menstrual periods
  • Hirsutism (HER-suh-tiz-um) — increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes
  • Cysts on the ovaries
  • Acne, oily skin, or dandruff
  • Weight gain or obesity, usually with extra weight around the waist
  • Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
  • Patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs that are thick and dark brown or black
  • Skin tags — excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
  • Pelvic pain
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Sleep apnea — when breathing stops for short periods of time while asleep

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