Woman shares health warning on TikTok after doctors find 10-pound ovarian cyst
A Minnesota woman is sharing her health fight on TikTok, she says, to help raise awareness and encourage women to take a stand for themselves and their health.
Raquel Rodriguez, 25, said doctors first found a cyst on her ovary in 2016 when they were conducting tests to determine why she had kidney infections so severe that she had to be hospitalized.
"They just said, 'Oh, you have a cyst. We're not worried about that,'" Rodriguez told Good Morning America, referring to her doctors at the time. "They didn't tell me the size and they didn't tell me much about it at all, so I just went ahead and I was like, OK, they don't worry about that."
Ovarian cysts, fluid-filled sacs that form on or in the ovaries, can occur monthly during ovulation. Most cysts are what gynecologists call "functional cysts," which resolve on their own and are usually benign, according to the U.S. Office on Women's Health.
Rodriguez said she continued to have intermittent kidney and bladder problems, as well as pain during intercourse, over the next few years.
Though the pain of intercourse was often severe, Rodriguez said she struggled to seek help.
"As a teenager, I was kind of embarrassed, I don't know if that's normal," Rodriguez said, adding that after a negative experience with a male emergency doctor, who she said made her feel undermined her pain, she searched for her never again help because of the pain.
Though Rodriguez said she continued to have symptoms like persistent pain and frequent urination, it wasn't until the past year that she said she was beginning to notice more physical changes, including extreme bloating.
"I kind of took it into my own hands to do as much research as I could," she said. "I really started browsing and looking at Reddit threads and talking to other women who were having the same thing, and then I really started standing up for myself."
PHOTO: Minnesota's Raquel Rodriguez is pictured three months before having a 10-pound cyst removed from her abdomen. (Courtesy of Raquel Rodriguez)
Rodriguez said she wants to be "as informed as possible" about what's going on with her body because in previous visits she had "not been taken seriously" about her symptoms.
Through her research, Rodriguez said she assumed her cyst was growing and went to see a midwife. She remarked, "I thought they would listen to me better than anyone else."
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The midwife who saw her ordered an emergency ultrasound from a doctor that same day, Rodriguez said. The ultrasound found a cyst extending from Rodriguez's pubic bone to her breastbone.
"She said, 'I've never seen anything so big in my life,'" Rodriguez said of the doctor's reaction who performed the ultrasound. "I remember as soon as I left the appointment I immediately called my mum and told her and I called my sister and told her and everyone was very upset because we had been dealing with this for so long. I was really, really relieved."
PHOTO: Minnesota's Raquel Rodriguez is pictured a day after having a 10-pound cyst removed from her abdomen. (Courtesy of Raquel Rodriguez)
In June, on her 25th birthday, Rodriguez underwent two-hour surgery to remove the cyst, which weighed 10 pounds and contained more than four liters of fluid.
"The first thing I noticed after the surgery was that I didn't have to pee right away. I could drink a glass of water and not have to pee right away," she said. "That night after surgery I looked at my stomach and it looked like it had caved in, which was super weird."
PHOTO: Raquel Rodriguez, of Minnesota, is pictured the day before a 10-pound cyst was removed from her abdomen. (Courtesy of Raquel Rodriguez)
Rodriguez's surgeon, Dr. Adrienne Mallen, a gynecologic oncology specialist, said the cyst was large enough that it appeared as if Rodriguez had a full-term pregnancy.
"The abdominal cavity, I tell people, it's like thinking about the inside of a beach ball. It's easy to hide growths," Mallen said. "The body is quite adaptable, so it can be very easy not to notice something in that area, and sometimes it's not noticed until it comes out of what we call the pelvis, especially in women's bodies."
Mallen said ovarian cysts often go undetected because there is no standard way to examine women's ovaries.
"The best test we have to see if there's a growth is a pelvic exam with your doctor," Mallen said, adding that ultrasound is then used to determine if a cyst is benign. "We don't have a standard test that you can use to check your ovaries only if you have a problem."
Although ovarian cysts affect millions of women each year, only about 5% to 10% of women, like Rodriguez, have cases severe enough to require surgery to remove an ovarian cyst, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
"I advise people to just focus on body awareness so they feel empowered because they know their body well," Mallen said, adding of her own patient, "Raquel was a great advocate for herself and made sure that she found a team that would listen to her."
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Ovarian cysts — which can be caused by hormonal changes, endometriosis, pregnancy, and serious pelvic infections — often cause no symptoms at all.
If an ovarian cyst is causing symptoms, they may include bloating, pressure, or pain near the cyst. Symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst can include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, bleeding, and severe pelvic or abdominal pain on the side of the body where the cyst is located, according to the Office of Women's Health.
PHOTO: Raquel Rodriguez of Minnesota is pictured in July 2022, a month after she had a 10-pound cyst removed from her abdomen. (Courtesy of Raquel Rodriguez)
As Rodriguez received answers of her own last year, she began sharing her health journey on TikTok to raise awareness about ovarian cysts and women's health.
"I wish I had been a bigger advocate for myself because I felt like if I had been a bigger advocate I would have gotten the help I needed when this first started," she said. "And I really wanted people to understand that women go through a lot, and there's a lot of things people go through that we don't talk about."
@rockiesoto33 #cyst #surgery ♬ Original sound - Raquel Rodriguez Soto
Rodriguez said that as she shared her journey, she was surprised by both the number of people who don't know about ovarian cysts and the number of people who have messaged her thanking her for having that she spoke up.
She said that while she continues to recover and improve, she was also surprised to find a platform that helps women empower their health.
"Women get fired so often and it's not really talked about," Rodriguez said. “I realized how strong I came through this surgery, standing up for myself and then being able to share my journey with other people. It really made me feel empowered.
Woman shares health alert on TikTok after doctors discover £10 ovarian cyst originally surfaced on goodmorningamerica.com
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