What are Ovarian Cysts?
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac, and can be located anywhere in the body. On the ovary, different types of cysts can form. Ovarian cysts are products of failed or disordered ovulation. The most common type of ovarian cyst is called a functional cyst, which often forms during the normal menstrual cycle. Each month, a woman's ovaries grow tiny cysts that hold the eggs. When an egg is mature, the sac breaks open to release the egg, so it can travel through the fallopian tube for fertilization. Then the sac dissolves. In one type of functional cyst, called a follicular cyst, the sac doesn't break open to release the egg and may continue to grow. This type of cyst usually disappears within one to three months. A corpus luteum cyst, another type of functional cyst, forms if the sac doesn’t dissolve. Instead, the sac seals off after the egg is released. Fluid then builds up inside of it. This type of cyst usually goes away on its own after a few weeks. However, it can grow to almost four inches and may bleed or twist the ovary and cause pain. These cysts are almost never associated with cancer.
There are also other types of cysts:
• Endometriomas. These cysts develop in women who have endometriosis, when tissue from the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. The tissue may attach to the ovary and form a growth. These cysts can be painful during sexual intercourse and during menstruation.
• Cystadenomas. These cysts develop from cells on the outer surface of the ovary. They are often filled with a watery fluid or thick, sticky gel. They can become large and cause pain.
• Dermoid cysts. The cells in the ovary are able to make hair, teeth, and other growing tissues that become part of a forming ovarian cyst. These cysts can become large and cause pain.
• Polycystic ovaries. The eggs mature within the follicles, or sacs, but the sac doesn't break open to release the egg. The cycle repeats, follicles continue to grow inside the ovary, and cysts form.
Later in life, usually after their mid-thirties, women sometimes develop an ovarian cyst that may not cause any symptoms, or it may cause pelvic pain ranging from mild to severe. The cyst may simply collapse and disappear after a month or two, or it may persist and increase in size and discomfort during succeeding months. Such cysts are caused by a failed ovulation in which, for reason presently unknown, the ovulation did not proceed to completion. With each succeeding month’s surge of Luteinizing Hormone (LH), the cyst swells and stretches the surface membrane, causing pain and possible bleeding at the site. Some cysts may become as large as a golf ball or lemon before discovery. Treatment may require surgery. (Removing the ovary along with the cyst used to be the standard procedure, but ask your surgeon to leave the ovary intact if at all possible.)
Causes: Ovarian cysts in young women are almost always caused by excess sugar and refined carbohydrates in the diet. These foods create chronically raised insulin levels, which stimulate the production of androgens (males hormones) from the ovary, which stimulates the production of the cysts.
According to John R. Lee M.D., ovarian cysts clear up within two to four months of cutting sugar and refined carbohydrates from the diet.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?
Many women have ovarian cysts without having any symptoms. Sometimes, though, a cyst will cause these problems:
• pressure, fullness, or pain in the abdomen
• dull ache in the lower back and thighs
• problems passing urine completely
• pain during sexual intercourse
• weight gain
• painful menstrual periods and abnormal bleeding
• nausea or vomiting
• breast tenderness
How are Ovarian Cysts treated?
Watchful waiting. The patient waits and gets re-examined in one to three months to see if the cyst has changed in size. This is a common treatment option for women who are in their childbearing years, have no symptoms, and have a fluid-filled cyst. It also might be an option for postmenopausal women.
Surgery. If the cyst doesn’t go away after several menstrual periods, has gotten larger, looks unusual on the ultrasound, causes pain, or you’re postmenopausal, your doctor may want to remove it. There are two main surgical procedures:
• Laparoscopy—if the cyst is small and looks benign on the ultrasound, your doctor may perform a laparoscopy. This procedure is done under general anesthesia. A very small incision is made above or below the navel, and a small instrument that acts like a telescope is inserted into the abdomen. If the cyst is small and looks benign, it can be removed.
• Laparotomy—if the cyst is large and looks suspicious, the doctor may perform a procedure called a laparotomy. This procedure involves making bigger incisions in the stomach to remove the cyst. While you are under general anesthesia, the doctor is able to have the cyst tested to find out if the tissue is cancerous. If it is cancerous, the doctor may need to remove the ovary and other tissues that may be affected, like the uterus or lymph nodes.
Birth control pills. If you frequently develop cysts, your doctor may prescribe birth control pills to prevent you from ovulating. This will lower the chances of forming new cysts. However, there are many negative side effects to using synthetic hormones.
There is an alternative treatment for ovarian cysts called Natural Progesterone.
The signaling mechanism that shuts off ovulation in one ovary each cycle is the production of progesterone in the other. If sufficient natural progesterone is supplemented prior to ovulation, LY levels are inhibited and both ovaries think the other one has ovulated, so regular ovulation does not occur. (This is the same effect as birth control pills.)
Dr. John Lee recommends adding natural progesterone from day 10 to day 26 of the cycle which suppresses LH and it’s luteinizing effects. Thus the ovarian cyst will not be stimulated and, in the passage of one or two such monthly cycles, will very likely shrink and disappear without further treatment.
Directions: Count the first day of bleeding as day 1, use ½ tsp. twice a day from day 10 to day 26 of your cycle. Continue this pattern for 3 cycles to temporarily suppress ovulation. According to Dr. Lee, ovulation often occurs on the fourth month.