A dermoid cyst is a cystic teratoma (an enclosed tumor with components of tissues or organs that resembles a variation of all 3 germ layers) that sometimes contains long strands of developmentally mature hair or pieces of teeth, fat, cartilage, or bone.
Because the tissue is usually mature, a dermoid cyst is almost always benign. The rare malignant cyst may develop squamous cell carcinoma in adults or an endodermal sinus tumor in babies or children. The cysts can appear anywhere on the body where a teratoma may appear; they are usually found in the face, spinal cord, or skull.
Signs & Symptoms
These cysts are often asymptomatic, but some women who have developed cysts on their ovaries complain of:
- Abdominal pain
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Trouble with urination
- Dull ache in the lower back or thighs
In severe cases, a dermoid ovarian cyst may twist on itself, causing severe pain. Seek medical treatment immediately if the cyst changes color, becomes red or inflamed, or if you would like to have it removed for aesthetic reasons.
The ovarian dermoid cysts rarely become malignant; only 1-2 percent of patients with these cysts develop cancer, commonly in women over 40 years of age.
Diagnosis & Treatment
A dermoid cyst forms when skin and skin structures become trapped during fetal development. If the cyst is not visible on the face, a doctor can order a CT or CAT scan to determine how deep the structure may extend into the surface of the tissue.
Treatment is usually a full surgical excision without expelling any of the cyst’s contents. A facial cyst can be removed without any complications. A cyst may develop in the nasal cavity on occasion; these growths are very difficult to remove. Cysts on the spinal cord are usually connected to the skin with a sinus tract, a narrow connection to the deep pit of the skin. These types of cysts are prone to infection.
Dermoid cysts are not usually serious unless they rupture. If the cyst is removed surgically, the chances of a recurrence are very slim. Unless a patient experiences side effects from the surgery, they can expect to make a full recovery.