An A-Z Woman's Guide to Vibrant Health

Ovarian Cysts, Polycystic Ovary
Syndrome and Ovarian Cancer


Ovarian cysts
Ovarian cysts are very common and often exist without symptoms. In a normal cycle, every month several follicles, each containing an egg, develop. A surge of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone helps release the egg, and progesterone increases. If the egg is not fertilized, the cycle starts all over again. Sometimes, however, no egg is released. Then no progesterone is secreted and more estrogen is released, thus maturing the follicles into fluid-filled sacs or cysts that will grow larger every month until progesterone is secreted.

Cysts can appear in a very short time and disappear just as quickly. Cysts can be alone or in groups, small or large (even as big as a lemon!). Often when cysts are a few centimeters in size, doctors will recommend surgery. However, if a diet and supplementation program is followed, those cysts will usually reduce and disappear. The risk of cancer increases when cysts become solid. Ovarian cancer is rare, but it is difficult to diagnose and remission rates with conventional medicine are poor.

Sometimes a follicle is able to grow tissue or skin cells within the cyst. These types of cysts will not dissipate and must be surgically removed.

Symptoms
Often ovarian cysts are not noticed until a pelvic examination is performed by the doctor or by an ultrasound scan. This is why it is so important to go for your annual PAP test because doctors perform a pelvic exam at the same time. For those with symptoms, the most obvious symptom is pain, either tenderness to the touch or a constant sore or burning sensation in the abdomen, located in the lower abdomen off to the right or left. Pain may occur during ovulation or intercourse. If a cyst erupts in the pelvic cavity, blood and fluid will discharge, possibly causing pain.

Causes
Ovarian cysts occur when there is a hormone imbalance. Estrogen dominance brought on by poor elimination of waste by the lymphatic system, colon, liver and kidneys is a factor. Emotional or physical trauma, prolonged stress, and even heavy exercise can cause increased estrogen. A diet rich in meat and dairy products is also responsible for elevating estrogen. Cysts that occur after menopause should be looked at by a physician, as there is a greater risk of them being cancerous. The risk of ovarian cancer is increased with the use of fertility drugs or birth control pills, or if you have never been pregnant.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder where many fluid-filled cysts are present and male hormones are excessively high. In this disorder, excess luteinizing hormone increases the production of male hormones that can cause acne and coarse hair growth.

Affecting up to 10 percent of the U.S. population, polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common hormone dysfunction among women in their reproductive years. Because eggs are frequently not released, fertility is a problem. If pregnancy does occur, it often ends with first trimester miscarriage or is associated with gestational diabetes. The condition seems to run in families, with 20 percent of mothers and 40 percent of sisters of those with PCOS also demonstrating varying degrees of the syndrome.

With the approach of menopause, androgen production declines, and there is a more normal pattern of menstruation. If left untreated, PCOS can lead to cancer of the uterine lining. Women with PCOS also are at increased risk for development of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

Symptoms
PCOS usually shows with coarse hair growth on the face and chest, and higher levels of male androgenic hormones, caused when the pituitary gland releases an excess of luteinizing hormone. Acne and oily skin are also evident. Ovaries are typically enlarged and contain multiple cysts. Symptoms often become apparent in puberty when menstruation is to begin: irregular menstrual periods with copious bleeding may occur, or PCOS can cause a lack of periods altogether. Infertility is a major concern of women with PCOS.

Causes
Although historically considered a gynecological problem, research now shows that PCOS is associated with hyperinsulinemia (production of too much of the insulin hormone) and impaired glucose metabolism. Perhaps not surprisingly, more than 65 percent of women who suffer from PCOS are obese. Reports indicate that early pubarche (breast budding and pubic hair growth) is linked to ovarian hyperandrogenism and insulin resistance, suggesting another hormonal trigger. Doctors typically try to determine if a tumor is responsible for the production of male hormones. Thyroid and prolactin abnormalities should also be investigated as possible causes of amenorrhea (lack of period).

Since the extra weight seems to be an important issue, those with PCOS should work toward losing excess weight gradually, using proper nutrition and exercise. Doing so will also lessen risks for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most diagnosed cancer, accounting for almost 5 percent of all cancer deaths. In fact, about one in 70 women will eventually develop ovarian cancer. Known as the silent killer, vague symptoms make this cancer difficult to detect and allow it to invade other tissues. Ovarian cancer normally strikes between the ages of 50 and 70, and with an almost 60 percent death rate, women need to understand the symptoms so that they can seek treatment early.

Symptoms
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can mimic common illnesses and are often vague. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, symptoms of early stage ovarian cancer include a mild discomfort in the lower part of the abdomen, a sense of incomplete evacuation of stool, gas, a frequent need to urinate, indigestion, feeling full after a light meal, low back pain and vaginal discharge. More advanced symptoms include painful intercourse, abnormal bleeding, diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. A build-up of fluid in the abdomen makes clothes feel tight. At this point, a woman may lose weight or become anemic.

Tests to diagnose ovarian cancer are simple and include a transvaginal ultrasound, a CA-125 blood test and a pelvic exam. Many doctors believe that the CA-125 blood test is not reliable, but the National Ovarian Cancer Association recommends it be done on women with above-noted symptoms. A 1983 Harvard University study found elevated levels in 80 percent of women with stages three and four ovarian cancer. The test was not as reliable with stage one and two cancer, and test results can also be high in women with uterine fibroids and endometriosis. Despite its imperfections, it is the best test that we have when combined with a transvaginal ultrasound. Fortunately, in Canada the CA-125 is covered under provincial health plans. Surgery is the only definitive method of detecting ovarian cancer.

PRESCRIPTION FOR WOMEN'S HEALTH


Nutrients
Dosage
Action
Multivitamins with minerals; (contains no iron)
MULTISMART
As directed. See Appendix A for the complete listing of recommended nutrients and their actions.
Ensures adequate nutrient status
GLUCOSMARTTM
1-2 capsules daily containing:
ChirositolTM 600-1200 mg
Chromium (Picolinate)
2.2-4.4 mcg
Restores ovulation, normalizes male hormones, controls insulin, stops belly fat
ESTROSMART
Take four capsules. Two at breakfast, two at dinner containing:

D-glucarate 300 mg
Important for healthy metabolism of estrogen; supports normal cell growth
Turmeric 100 mg
(95% curcumin)
Prevents abnormal cell growth, detoxifies cancer-causing form of estrogen
Indole-3-carbinol 300 mg
Eliminates excess toxic and cancer-causing estrogens. Has been shown to reverse abnormal PAP tests within 3 menstrual cycles
Green tea extract 200 mg
Protects against abnormal cell growth, detoxifies excess estrogens
Rosemary extract 50 mg
Reduces tumor formation; is antioxidant
Di-indolylmethane (DIM) 100 mg
Antioxidant; reduces risk of cancer
Sulforaphane 400 mcg daily
Reduces risk of cancer; stops abnormal cell growth
Immunosmart
Take 2 capsules per day with food
For a strong immune system, enhances T cells and Natural killer cells
Borage oil
GLA Skin Oil
2000 mg Borage oil per day
Researched in Estrogen
Receptor positive
Breast Cancer

HEALTH TIPS TO ENHANCE HEALING
  • See health tips for Endometriosis.
  • Weight loss is essential in those with polycystic ovarian syndrome. See Diabetes for tips on normalizing insulin and improving insulin resistance, which aids PCOS.
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