A surgeon who led a team that removed a 180-pound ovarian cyst from a West Virginia woman says his patient is a lucky woman but still faces many obstacles to a full recovery.

Dr. John L. Currie, director of gynecologic oncology at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said the 40-year-old woman is progressing nicely in the hospital's intensive care unit, where she was listed in stable condition Thursday.The woman, whose identity has not been revealed, was flown by helicopter to Johns Hopkins on May 1 after a rural doctor discovered the massive cyst during a routine examination.

"This is something I've written about," said Currie, who removed an 85-pound cyst earlier in his career. "I felt fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. . . . These sorts of things can be disastrous."

By the time she arrived in Baltimore, her breathing was labored and she was in danger of suffering a heart attack. The next day, a team of 25 to 30 doctors and nurses removed the cyst.

The cyst occupied nearly 90 percent of the woman's abdomen and had shoved her digestive system into a narrow space just under her rib cage.

"How (her digestive system) functioned at all is a miracle of nature," Currie said.

The woman, who weighed 708 pounds before the operation, now weighs about 400 pounds. Most of the additional weight was fluid lost during the May 2 operation.

Currie said doctors are still trying to learn why the cyst was allowed to grow for at least five years without medical attention. He speculated that fear of surgery and the woman's obesity stopped her from seeking help.