It can be rather traumatic suddenly finding lumps and bumps on your body that were never there before, but cysts are a very common occurrence that many people suffer from – yet not many of us talk about them or tell other people.
Cysts in my family are unfortunately hereditary and I have had three previously removed, so when I felt a lump growing behind my ear I knew exactly what to do.
Seeing as the NHS now deem cysts to be cosmetic, as they are commonly benign lumps filled with fluid, I booked into a private Harley Street clinic to have a skilled surgeon Dr. Deniz Kanliada examine and remove my cyst. It has grown over the past year to resemble the size and shape of a baked bean and aches beneath the skin behind my ear.
Not only is it tender to sleep on, preventing me from wearing hairbands and accessories, but it’s also embarrassing and unsightly and when I go to the hairdressers or brush my hair it’s difficult not to catch it and make it irritated. It just had to go!
There are hundreds of different types of cysts which can grow anywhere on the body and include: epidermoid cyst, sebaceous cyst, ganglion cyst, ovarian cyst, breast cyst, chalazia cyst, pilonidal cyst, bakers cyst, cystic acne, ingrown hair cyst, pilar cyst, mucous cyst and branchial cleft cysts – mine being the epidermoid cyst.
Dr. Deniz Kanliada immediately identified the lump behind my ear as an epidermoid cyst which is essentially a thick case filled with keratin protein. Typically caused by a trauma around a hair follicle beneath the skin, the top layer of the skin starts to incorrectly grow downward and harden instead of moving outward to the surface to shed. Because of this blockage an epidermoid cyst forms and there is nothing that can be done to prevent it – if it happens it happens.
It is unlikely that a common cyst on the body will be cancerous as most have a sac like structure that fills with fluid, pus or gas which is often caused by infection, clogging of the sebaceous glands or formed around traumas.
With my cysts all having being located in my hair I was assured that it’s just unlucky and changing my shampoo and conditioner or washing my hair more or less frequently will not make a difference to their occurrence. It is my skin malfunctioning which is outside of my control.
Cysts can be treated in a number of ways dependant on their type and location on the body; some may disappear of their own accord, others can be drained with a needle, treated with medication, corticosteroid injections can be administered to reduce inflammation and some will need to be surgically removed to prevent them from refilling.
As I had a cyst refill on my head after it was drained, I find the best method to prevent the return of a cyst in a specific area is to have it surgically removed which involves taking away the hard sac of tissue so that it cannot refill or return.
The process of having a cyst removed is very straightforward and is performed under local anaesthetic with an injection to the area that is to be treated to totally numb the skin. I tied my hair back to keep it out of the way, lay on my side on a surgical bed and remained still as Dr Kanliada cleansed the area which was entirely numb throughout.
Seeing as the cyst was behind my ear I couldn’t see anything that was happening although I was aware of each stage of the treatment as my doctor explained what was happening throughout. With a scalpel a small incision was made less than 1cm in length behind my ear and a pincer tool was used to pull the sac out from beneath the skin.
Successfully removing the cyst and cleansing the area, I then had a row of dissolvable stitches put in place which would disappear of their own accord in a week post-treatment as I heal. I could return to my usual gym routine the following day and had to keep the area clean and dry for 48hrs before being able to wash my hair. I was also given antibiotics for two days to prevent infection as being in the hairline meant that it would be difficult to apply an antiseptic cream.
The consultation took around fifteen minutes, the removal of the cyst another ten minutes with a five minute chat about aftercare and healing along with answering any questions that I had – all of which fit conveniently into my lunch break and I returned to my day immediately after with nobody knowing what I’d had done.
As the lump is now gone I no longer feel any pain or tenderness, the skin has healed beautifully, the stitches dissolved and I can sleep perfectly. I’m absolutely thrilled with the results and so happy to be lump-free at last!