Busy Philipps is making an important statement after her sudden ovarian torsion (OT) diagnosis: It's better to see a doctor than try and be a hero.
The actress was out and about celebrating the birthday of her BFF Michelle Williams over the weekend when she began experiencing excruciating pain that landed her in the hospital.
"Last night ended super weird," the actress wrote on Instagram. "It was determined my ovary had flipped over—it's called torsion. Mine flipped back by itself and I'm ok but sometimes if it doesn't you have to get surgery or you can lose your ovary (which actually happened to a really good friend of mine)," she said.
Last night ended super weird. But if you listen to my podcast, you know our advice is always, don't be a hero, go to the doctor. Anyway, I had a crazy excruciating pain in my lower right side and after a long time at Mass Gen, it was determined my ovary had flipped over- it's called torsion. Mine flipped back by itself and I'm ok but sometimes if it doesn't you have to get surgery or you can lose your ovary(which actually happened to a really good friend of mine) Anyway, my point of posting this was I felt like an idiot for going to the hospital but ultimately, going was the right move! It always is! Even if they say you're fine and send you on your way! And a huge thank you to the amazing doctors and nurses who took care of me!
So what's this scary illness, exactly? "An ovarian torsion happens when one of your ovaries flops down and rotates, cutting off its own blood supply in the process," says Michael Cackovic, M.D., a board certified ob-gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Imagine if someone was twisting a man's testicle, since that's the complementary organ in the man. OT is a very similar thing for women, but you just can't see it since it's in the abdomen." Um, ow.
For this to actually happen, you need to have a cyst in your ovary, Dr. Cackovic explains. "The ovary itself is so small (2 to 3 cm) that it could never just flip on its own. When a cyst causes it to grow to about 5 to 6 cm, it puts unequal weight on the organ, causing it to turn." (Related: The Truth About Those Below-the-Belt Skin Conditions, Bumps, and Rashes)
What happened to Busy is known as an intermittent ovarian torsion. This is when the cyst is on the cusp of being too big but can twist and untwist on its own. In this case, the blood supply isn't shut off completely, so it gives the patient enough time to see a doctor and get a diagnosis. "The timing of something like this would need to perfect," Dr. Cackovic says. So despite the horrible pain, Busy was actually pretty lucky. (Related: Would You See a Robot Gynecologist?)
Most OTs require surgery since blood supply from the affected ovary is cut off completely. In these cases, surgeons will try to get in there and untwist the organ to replenish the blood flow. Depending on how quickly that happens, the ovary can go back to functioning normally. But usually, by the time patients get to the hospital, get prepped for surgery, and go under the knife, the blood supply has been cut off for so long that the ovary becomes necrotic, Dr. Cackovic explains, leading to the complete loss of the organ, like Busy said about her friend in her post.
Though scary, these incidents are rare. Ovarian torsions account for only 2 percent of all abdominal surgery cases and 15 percent of all ovarian surgeries, Dr. Cackovic notes.
Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do to prevent them. Going on the Pill could reduce your risk for OT simply because it prevents cysts from occurring, but that's a protective not preventative measure, Dr. Cackovic says. (Related: Is the Pill Permanently Messing with Your Fertility?)
The key is to seek medical help if you feel like you need it. "Ovarian torsion patients are some of the sickest patients you see," Dr. Cackovic says. "They're usually in fetal position and in excruciating pain. That being said, the process starts somewhere, so even if your pain isn't a 10/10, go seek the care and evaluation you need and perhaps you'll get diagnosed earlier and end up saving your ovary." (Related: How Often Do You Really Need to See the Doc?)
Bottom line? If you have pain, don't blow it off. As Busy says herself: "I felt like an idiot for going to the hospital but ultimately, going was the right move! It always is! Even if they say you're fine and send you on your way!"