My tryst with an ovarian cyst – laparotomy v/s laparoscopy

(This is a part II of a three-part series about my experience from the discovery of the dermoid cyst to my harrowing experience in the various hospitals of Bangalore, to the final laparoscopic removal by Dr. Deepak Rao of Rashmi Hospital).

Fifth stop: Manipal Hospital, on the 1st day of 2019. Not the most auspicious start to the year! As if it wasn’t bad enough that I was in a hospital on the first day of the new year, I found myself standing in the basement (yes, the gynaecology department is in the basement. All those new lives? They are discussed underground) of the hospital. At this stage, I’d still not seen a doctor, not even a junior doctor! But the department asked me to go and get the pre-anaesthesia checks as well!

I understood that my prognosis was serious, but surely you’d want to see the patient once, before getting her ready for the surgery? It was almost like I was seeing the doctor only to fix the surgery date, and when I FINALLY saw the doctor, she asked me if I’d be ready for a laparotomy the very next day. A major surgery, involving a large incision across my entire abdomen. And she wanted to operate me within 24 hours. This when I had no symptoms, was in absolutely no pain or discomfort, and was very obviously not an emergency case. She also said that my cyst was borderline malignant (completely ignoring the oncologist’s opinion), and indicated that there was a strong likelihood that they would remove my uterus and other ovary during the procedure. My husband wanted to know why a laparoscopic surgery couldn’t be attempted.

  • Because after all, I wouldn’t want to go from stage 1 of cancer to stage 4, just because I wanted to avoid being cut across the abdomen, right?
  • But the cyst is showing NO signs of being cancerous. And we’ve consulted an oncologist who is confident that it’s benign.
  • No no, the oncologist at Manipal thinks it’s cancerous. (Without seeing the MRI scans or seeing me to discuss my symptoms.)

By the time they’d finished listing all the other possible negative outcomes (my bowels and kidneys could also get nicked), my husband and I were both feeling like I was a goat being led to slaughter and the doctors were just waiting to feast on the exhorbitant fees, that I would be paying the hospital.  We were shaken to the core and weren’t feeling any confidence in the team at Manipal. There was no way I was ever going into an OT with any of those doctors wielding the scalpel.

Sixth stop: Fortis, La Femme, to meet the head of their gynaecology department. The staff at Fortis was much more courteous, and I immediately felt like I would be in good hands there. A more positive diagnosis, since the doctor didn’t think that my cyst was cancerous. As she rightly said, a cyst as large as mine, couldn’t possibly be cancerous and sit quietly inside me without manifesting any symptoms apart from a very steady growth. I would have been in some pain at the very least. But she also felt that a laparotomy was necessary, since my cyst was too large. We walked out, sure that if a laparotomy  was our only recourse, we’d get it done at Fortis.

(Image used only for illustrative purposes)

In the meanwhile, a close family friend and homeopathy practitioner in Bombay, who had been doing research for alternate solutions, told us about Dr. J. Mehta in Bombay who specializes in laparoscopic surgeries for cysts as large as mine. He was confident that he could remove my cysts laparoscopically, but flying to Bombay for a surgery seemed daunting. What would my mother, who had flown down from Pune after hearing the initial prognosis, do? What would we do with Arya, our dog? What about post-operative care? Hearing our worries, Dr.Mehta recommended Dr. Deepak Rao, who also specialises in the same kind of procedures. I didn’t want to see another doctor and talk about my (lack of) symptoms again. I definitely didn’t want to hear them ask me how I ended up with such a large cyst. But my husband insisted. If we could get out of this ordeal with a minimally invasive surgery, surely it was worth the hassle?

Seventh & final stop: Rashmi Hospital, which is housed in a very unassuming building on Double Road, IndiraNagar. By this time, I had started comparing the waiting room experiences of all the labs and hospitals I’d seen since the 25th. I was fatigued, beleaguered and at a stage where I just wanted a magic wand to turn back time to my pre-cyst, medical examinations and doctor-free, peaceful existence of classes and language certification examinations. The waiting room was busy, people walking in and out of the consultations rooms, and very soon it was my turn.

I walked into to the room not expecting much. Dr. Rao heard me out, looked at the reports and the MRI scans, examined me, and said he could treat my cyst laparoscopically. After having heard from several top doctors that there was no way my cysts could be removed through a keyhole surgery, I wasn’t sure if I could believe him. So he explained the procedure to us, and also showed us videos of how it would be done.

  • Could the cyst be malignant?
  • If it was malignant, with a cyst that size, there was no way I’d be sitting in front of him, having this conversation.

His calm, matter-of-fact demeanor inspired confidence. Most importantly, he seemed to care about me. The first doctor to address me as a person, since I’d started my medical tourism, Dr. Rao assured me that I wouldn’t feel any pain, and that I’d be able resume normal life very soon after the surgery. Rather ironic, but here was a male doctor who seemed to care more about preserving my reproductive organs, and reducing my pain than any of the female doctors I’d encountered so far. That he is an extremely competent and knowledgeable doctor came through in that meeting, but he also busted the myth that a female gynaecologist would be more empathetic. I felt much more comfortable with him, than with any of the female doctors. My husband and I walked out of Rashmi Hospital seeing light at the end of the tunnel…

In case you reached this post directly, you can read the previous and final part of my experience here: 

  1. My tryst with an ovarian cyst – discovery & diagnosis
  2. My tryst with an ovarian cyst – laparoscopic surgery by Dr. Deepak Rao




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