This woman thought she'd gained weight — instead it was a 50-pound ovarian cyst

Kayla Rahn discovered why she was having trouble losing weight. (Photo: WCVB 5)

Kayla Rahn, a native of Montgomery, Ala., had been trying to lose weight for over a year when doctors finally found an explanation for her futile attempts. The excess weight wasn’t body fat, it was a massive 50-pound ovarian cyst. “I legit looked like I was a solid nine months pregnant,” Rahn told the local NBC12 news. “We went to dinner and someone asked me if I was having twins.”

After Rahn had complained of stomach pains for months, her mom took her to the emergency room in May, where she told doctors that the pain was so severe it made walking to the car difficult. Doctors quickly performed tests on the 30-year-old and determined that one of her ovaries had an extremely large mucinous cystadenoma, a benign cystic tumor. 

The surgery to remove it was successful, and Rahn is recovering well. Although such cysts are known to be uncommon, even the doctor who removed it was surprised by its magnitude. “This is one of the largest [ovarian cysts] I have ever seen or certainly removed,” Gregory Jones, MD, an ob-gyn at Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, told NBC12. “We are very excited things went well for [Kayla].”

So what is a mucinous cystadenoma, and how can you be sure you don’t have one? To find out, Yahoo Lifestyle consulted Sherry Ross, MD, a prominent ob-gyn from Southern California and the author of She-ology, a “definitive guide” to women’s intimate health. Ross says that mucinous cystadenomas, although uncommon, can occur in women of reproductive age.

“What’s happening here is a benign cyst of the ovary filled with a mucus-like liquid. It grows very slowly but can end up quite large,” she explains. “Since this one was 50 pounds, I imagine that it’s been growing for many years — maybe even a decade.” Ross says the cysts begin as small fluid-filled sacs, and then continue to grow and form new pockets filled with mucus. The reason why is unclear.

“Some people are just prone to having cysts like this, so the growth is somewhat random. It’s not hereditary and, in this case, [is] non-cancerous,” Ross says. “This woman did have some symptoms, like weight gain and stomach pains, but it seems like those symptoms were dismissed.” As an ob-gyn for many years, Ross stresses the importance of pelvic ultrasounds, specifically for overweight and obese women, in whom it’s more difficult to observe the ovaries.

“This is a good example of why it’s important to get yearly gynecologic examinations, because this is an extreme case of what can happen,” Ross notes. Whether or not Rahn had been examined by an ob-gyn, Ross adds that it’s important to advocate for yourself if doctors aren’t listening. “If you’re uneasy with what your doctor is telling you, get another opinion,” she says. “I think that should be encouraged.”

While it’s extremely unlikely for this to happen to the average individual, Ross says, there are things you can do to stay safe. “Listen to your body. If you’re noticing any increase in pants size that you can’t explain, or any sort of nausea, vomiting, or bowel problems, then you should have your doctor check it out,” she says. “When you have symptoms that don’t make sense, a pelvic ultrasound is never a bad idea.”

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