Ovarian Cysts

Can A Dermoid Ovarian Cyst Be Cancerous? (Do they cause ovarian cancer?)

Dermoid ovarian cysts are ugly to look at – all the teeth, hair, eyes, blood and skin that they potentially contain does not make for an appealing sight. The question however is; does this ugliness extend to the symptoms that the cystic growths cause. And more specifically, can they lead to ovarian cancer?

Dermoid ovarian cysts and ovarian cyst symptoms

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Understand this: the fact that dermoid ovarian cysts, also known as ovarian teratomas, look scary does not mean that they cause the worst of symptoms of ovarian cysts. In fact, it is the opposite. These ugly looking cysts, that are sometimes called ovarian teratomas, rarely show any ovarian cyst symptoms.

Their appearance has more to do with the way that they develop and less with the damage that they can do to the female reproductive system.

Dermoid cysts form germ cells that have the ability to develop into any tissues be it skin, teeth, eyes, thyroid tissues, fat tissues and tissues of different organs. There are even cases of the cysts containing functioning organ parts. And while this might sound all scary and threatening. It is usually not.

Pregnancy and getting pregnant

What works to the advantage of dermoid cysts on ovaries is the fact that they grow at a slower rate. Them being usually small in size is but a bonus. They therefore tend to be all bark with no bite – at least most of the time.

Dermoid ovarian cysts and cancer

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The same goes for ovarian cancer complications. The chances of dermoid cysts being malignant are very slim. In fact, studies show that about 98% of all dermoid cysts are benign. And 2% is an ultra-narrow window.

So, if you have dermoid ovarian cysts, you needn’t worry  a lot. The chances of the cystic growth being non-cancerous stand at 98%. Those are pretty good odds.

The chances of you ending up with ovarian cancer are even slimmer if you haven’t yet slipped to the postmenopausal league. This is because the 2% malignancy rate is made up of women who are already past menopause.

What makes a dermoid cyst turn cancerous

According WebMD, doctors don’t really know what causes malignancy in dermoid ovarian cysts. They may have theories and suspicions. They may have an idea of the risk factors. But they really don’t know what exactly is responsible for the 2% of dermoid cyst cases that end up in ovarian cancer. This is unfortunate.

Difficulty in detecting malignancy in ovarian teratomas

The fact that it is difficult to detect signs of cancer in a dermoid ovarian cyst is no secret. According to Radiopaedia, this has to do with the fact that the cancerous cells only form part of the cyst. Therefore, before surgery, knowing whether a dermoid cyst is cancerous or not is almost impossible unless the cancer spreads to adjacent tissues.

In a 24-year study that was carried out on 6 patients at Velindre Cancer Center in the UK, only one out of the 6 was suspected of having ovarian cancer after medical tests but before surgery. Surgery was necessary to discover the cancer in the ovaries of the other 5 patients. MRI scans, CT scans and ultrasound scans weren’t super-helplful in helping to distinguish between a malignant dermoid cyst and a benign one.

Fertility-safe removal of dermoid ovarian cysts is possible 

According to an Australia New Zealand gynaecological oncology group (ANZGOG) and gynaecologic cancer intergroup (GCIG) study, the fact that a woman develops cancerous dermoid cysts does not mean that she has to lose her ovaries. In the study,  there were 4 women who had good outcomes from fertility-sparing surgery.

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Dermoid ovarian cysts that turn cancerous are rare, very rare. If you have dermoid cysts, there is a 98% chance that the cysts are benign.

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