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Californian woman, 33, finds out she has ‘grapefruit sized’ cysts on ovaries

A 33-year-old woman who was going through periods so painful she felt like her insides were being ripped apart was shocked to be diagnosed with two “grapefruit-like” cysts on her right ovary.

Farren Bay, of California, had suffered from the pain since her early teens, but was constantly told by doctors that she had constipation or a urinary tract infection (UTI).

It wasn’t until she collapsed on the floor, gasping for air, at age 26 that medics finally diagnosed her with endometriosis — in which tissue that forms the lining of the uterus grows in other areas, such as the ovaries, leading to severe pain.

The hospital technician has now had surgery to remove the cysts and is on medication to relieve the pain. But she said the first round of drugs caused a temporary menopause, and she still suffers from nausea, which makes her feel “trapped” in an older person’s body.

Doctors say she can still have children, but only through her left ovary and fallopian tube after the cysts hit the other side of her body.

Farren Bay, now 33 and from California, was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2015 after she collapsed from the pain to breathe

Doctors previously said she had a urinary tract infection (UTI) or constipation.  She is pictured above after surgery

Farren Bay, now 33 and from California, was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2015 after she collapsed on the floor gasping for air, the pain was so severe. She had been to doctors since her early teens but was told she had either constipation or a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Scans showed she had two grapefruit-sized cysts on her right ovary (pictured above is a photo from the surgery).  These were removed during surgery

Scans showed she had two grapefruit-sized cysts on her right ovary (pictured above is a photo from the surgery). These were removed during surgery

The hospital technician (pictured after surgery) was then given pills to relieve the pain, but said they left her with hot flashes and memory loss.  She was then switched to a separate treatment, but said she was still in pain

The hospital technician (pictured after surgery) was then given pills to relieve the pain, but said they left her with hot flashes and memory loss. She was then switched to a separate treatment, but said she was still in pain

Endometriosis is a painful condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of it, such as in the ovaries and fallopian tubes. When this breaks down every month, the blood can’t drain, causing cysts.

About 11 percent of American women — or 6.1 million — are believed to have the condition, which causes them to struggle with pelvic pain, pain during sex and indigestion among other symptoms.

Endometriosis: what is it, what are the symptoms and how can it be treated?

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue that lines the inside of the uterus, called the endometrium, appears in other parts of the body, including the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

It bleeds just as it would when lining the uterus, with the blood getting trapped instead of draining, leading to the formation of cysts.

About six to 11 percent of American women have the condition, which normally strikes in their 30s and 40s.

But it can take years to diagnose because the symptoms can be confused for a bad period.

Endometriosis Causes

There is no known cause of endometriosis, although one theory holds that family genetics play a large role.

Other possible causes include problems with the immune system and complications of menstrual periods, where the tissue secretion flows to other parts of the body.

Endometriosis Symptoms

The main symptoms of endometriosis are chronic pelvic, lower back and abdominal pain which can be worse than normal during a period; experiencing pain during intercourse, painful bowel movements; bloating and nausea.

Painful periods and difficulty conceiving are other important symptoms. Experiencing heavy periods and infertility is seen as symptomatic of endometriosis.

Endometriosis diagnosis

The doctor will perform a pelvic exam and may perform an ultrasound, but a laparoscopy is currently the only way to confirm a diagnosis of endometriosis.

A laparoscopy is a procedure in which the doctor makes a small incision in the abdomen and puts a tube through it to see if there are pieces of endometriosis tissue.

Endometriosis Treatment

There is no cure for endometriosis. However, hospitals offer treatments that can relieve symptoms.

These include pain relievers such as acetaminophen, hormone drugs, and contraceptives such as the pill, the contraceptive patch, and an IUS. Surgery to cut out the endometriosis tissue or parts of the affected organ is also an option.

But it can often take years to diagnose, as warning signs are regularly dismissed by doctors as just “bad periods.” It’s also difficult to diagnose because it can only be done through a scan or surgery where doctors look in the pelvic area to check for cancerous uterine tissue.

Treatment options include surgery to remove any cysts and medications to induce temporary menopause and relieve the pain. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) may also be inserted to help drain menstrual fluid.

Bay said that despite complaining repeatedly to doctors in her early teens, it took her until 2015 to receive a diagnosis.

In her case, they used laparoscopic surgery to detect the condition — making a small incision in the abdomen and inserting a tube to check if uterine tissue is growing elsewhere in the body.

She then had surgery to remove the cysts and was then given the prescription drug Lupron Depot that stops menstruation to relieve the pain.

But Bay said she had a “terrible experience” with the medication that left her with “insomnia, hot flashes, mood swings, bone pain and memory loss.”

She added, “The drugs put you into medically induced menopause — it was absolutely horrible.”

Doctors later switched her to another drug, but Bay said it didn’t work, forcing her to “quit” for a while [taking] all together’.

She is now on another medication, but says the condition still hurts her and she feels “angry, confused, upset and alone.”

“Because of the pain, I was unemployed as a hospital technician for more than a year in December 2020,” she said.

“I couldn’t pay my rent, my car, daily necessities, or even food — not to mention the cost of surgery and medicine that kept piling up in debt.”

Bay says she still suffers from nausea and fatigue every day, as well as pain in her pelvis, hips and knees.

“At 33 years old, my body can’t do the things I want to – it’s disheartening,” she said.

“It also affects my relationships with people in my life because it’s hard to socialize. Sometimes I have constant nausea and I am so tired that I hardly want to go outside.

“My body feels like it’s trapped in an older woman.”

Bay returned to work in March 2022, but has only been able to go part-time due to symptoms. She is forced to rely on financial support from her parents.

Describing her symptoms prior to diagnosis, she said, “I remember my guts feeling like they were being ripped apart in my early and teens, and even as an adult.”

Doctors repeatedly said I had a urinary tract infection or constipation, she said, but my symptoms persisted even after treatment.

In July 2015, at the age of 26, she called her father for help because the pain was so severe.

“When he found me, I was on the ground gasping for air,” Bay said.

“The paramedics came and I was rushed to the hospital to find out that I had two grapefruit-sized cysts on my right ovary.

“They allowed me to observe me and my gynecologist at the time told me that if I didn’t feel better in the morning, surgery would be the best option.

‘She removed the cysts’ [in surgery] and during my follow-up appointment I found out I had endometriosis.’

Bay shown in hospital

Bay's belly pictured after surgery

In December 2020, Bay (pictured left, and her abdomen on the right after surgery) had to take more than a year off work due to the pain that left her struggling to pay bills and even get food on the table. She had to rely on her parents for some financial help

Bay wants to raise awareness about endometriosis (shown above after surgery).  About 11 percent of American women have the condition, estimates suggest, but it's often misdiagnosed

Bay wants to raise awareness about endometriosis (shown above after surgery). About 11 percent of American women have the condition, estimates suggest, but it’s often misdiagnosed

She has spoken out about her illness to raise awareness of the condition and help others in a similar place.

She said: ‘The disease can be lonely – people will make you feel ashamed or ‘crazy’ because you have the feelings you have when you deal with it.

Endometriosis is a whole-body disease. You are in pain and your feelings are valid.

“I hope sharing my story will help many other people get diagnosed or feel less alone because this disease is very isolating.”

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