What is a Gynaecological (Gynae) Ultrasound Scan?
An ultrasound scan uses sound waves, via the introduction of a probe gently placed in the vagina, to produce images on a monitor, which can be reproduced as a report for your doctor. These images clearly reveal the structure of the female reproductive organs, the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus (womb). It can also accurately measure these organs and their blood flow, including the thickness of the lining of the womb (endometrium). The scan can detect many things, including the presence of follicles on the ovaries and their maturity and abnormalities such as fibroids, cysts and the presence of solid tumours.
What Will a Gynae Scan Tell You About Your Health?
An ultrasound scan provides very useful information for women trying to conceive. The scan will reveal the state of the follicles (containing eggs) as they mature throughout the menstrual cycle. It can also be used to predict when ovulation will occur, giving you the best chance of conceiving naturally. By a specialist inserting fluid into the womb through the cervix, a procedure called HyCoSy, the specialist can check that the womb cavity is normal in shape with no polyps or fibroids and that the fallopian tubes are patent (open) as fluid can be seen flowing through the tubes.
Ovarian cysts can develop around the ovaries and these are usually harmless water filled pockets. Some can commonly develop around the time of ovulation. Some can be benign (non-cancerous cysts) which can be monitored until they resolve or if large or causing symptoms such as pain, can be removed surgically. Some small cysts, arranged in a particular pattern, can give a diagnosis of a condition called polycystic ovaries and a particular appearance of ovarian cysts can be endometriosis cysts (sometimes called chocolate cysts).
Fibroids in the Uterus
Fibroids are benign growths in the muscle of the womb and can form at any time in a woman’s life before the menopause. They can be incidental findings and small and not cause any problems. However, depending on where they are located within the cavity (lining of the womb) these can cause difficulties with fertility or miscarriage. Multiple fibroids can lead to heavy, painful periods and the scan will be able to locate, measure and assess any fibroids. Fibroids, if present during pregnancy, may grow and need to be monitored by scan. Fibroids, if large, can press on other organs like the bladder. If fibroids are found, your Gynaecologist can offer you appropriate advice, management and treatment of your fibroids.
The Lining of the Womb
The lining of the womb is known as the endometrium. An ultrasound scan can be used to measure the thickness of this lining, which during the reproductive years, grows thicker as the cycle progresses and eventually sheds, resulting in a period if there is no pregnancy in that cycle. If the endometrium is thin, this may be a sign of the absence of ovulation if measured at the end of a typical four- week cycle. Also, irregularity of the endometrium can suggest a polyp. If it is thick, for instance after the menopause, then this would be something your Gynaecologist would investigate to ensure all is well.
Ovarian cancer develops when abnormal cells in the ovaries begin to multiply out of control to form a tumour. Ovarian Cancer is known as the ‘Silent Killer’, as the symptoms are often hard to spot. A gynaecological ultrasound scan will detect a suspected tumour, so that your Gynaecologist can determine what the next steps are in confirming the diagnosis and prescribing treatment. Sufferers have the best chance of a full recovery if the condition is diagnosed in the early stages, so it is advisable to have ovarian cancer screening in the form of a scan routinely, rather like having a smear test every three years, to prevent disease going undetected and thus untreated. Screening can start after the menopause or earlier if there is a family history of ovarian cancer.
An ultrasound scan is a safe way to ensure you retain your gynaecological and reproductive health and can be repeated routinely in a programme of health screening, especially designed for you by our Consultant Gynaecologists at the Women’s Wellness Centre. Why not give us a call to book in this indispensable test and ensure your continued wellness.