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Strictly's Kristina Rihanoff Reveals Her Ovarian Cyst Scare

12/10/2010 13:46 | Updated 22 May 2015

Strictly Come Dancing's Kristina Rihanoff has revealed how she had an operation to remove an ovarian cyst.

Usually noted for her composure, even when dancing with John Sergeant, being voted off the current show with dance partner Goldie, or listening to the judges criticise her partnerlast year, former world boxing champion Joe Calzaghe, who was by then her boyfriend, Kristina reveals she was in tears at the diagnosis.

Initally she thought the pain running from her hip to her abdomen was a dancer's injury, but after two weeks she sought medical help. A scan revealed a golf-ball sized cyst was growing out of her ovary.

It's thought most women will have a cyst at some point and never know it. However, if an ovarian cyst starts to grow, as Kristina's had, it can cut off the blood supply to the ovary or even rupture, with serious implications for fertility and health.

'When the doctor told me about the cyst, I broke down in tears,' Kristina told the Daily Mail.

'I had just met Joe - and it was the first time the thought of having a child with someone had actually crossed my mind. I was also worried about what would happen to my work - I have my mum and family to support. I had tours booked for months ahead so the pressure was on.

'Before this, I always took my health for granted. I thought I was so fit I had nothing to fear - this was a big wake-up call.'

Kristina had a dermoid cyst. These affect one in 100 women under the age of 30 - the risk of developing one drops after this.

Dermoid cysts are made from cells that make the egg and as an egg can go on to make any type of cell in the body, sometimes these cysts are filled with various types of tissue such as hair, skin or even teeth, explains Chris Mann, a consultant gynaecologist.

'Like any cysts, they can develop quickly over months or slowly over years. Cysts tend to cause symptoms only as they grow and can vary from 2cm to the size of a football. If they start to put pressure on the bowel or bladder, women will notice they have the urge to go to the loo more often or have an aching sensation in their abdomen.

'Smaller cysts of around 2cm are often picked up by chance and may just be monitored because at this size they don't normally cause any harm.

'However, a dermoid cyst can burst, causing what is known as chemical peritonitis, in which adhesions, strips of sticky scar tissue, stick to the organs in the abdomen and gum them up - making it hard for a woman to conceive.

'If the cyst gets bigger, it can also twist around the ovary and cut off its blood supply, so immediate surgery is needed to save the ovary.'

Two days after the scan Kristina had key hole surgery to remove the cyst last December.

'I was worried about two main things -how it would affect my ovaries and the recovery time,' she says. 'I had only two weeks until the rehearsals for a Strictly Come Dancing tour.

'I called Joe and he said all I needed to worry about was getting better and that he would look after me every step of the way.'

Joe dropped her off for the 40-minute operation at St. Mary's Hospital, London, on December 22 - the day of the Strictly Christmas special. She and Joe had been voted off and the show's producers agreed her health was more important than the group numbers she would normally be required for.

'When I came round after the operation, my belly was bloated because the doctors pumped my abdomen full of gas to give them more room to work in.'

On January 3, rehearsals began for the Strictly tour, but Kristina was still too weak to dance.

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