Author: Houston Fibroids

These 2 Factors Delay Fibroids Diagnosis

Sometimes, it’s hard to get your fibroids diagnosis. Often, women with uterine fibroids develop symptoms. These include long, heavy periods; weight gain; bloating; constipation and pelvic pain. But what if you already experienced many of those symptoms, because you were carrying extra weight? Or because of other conditions? It would certainly make it harder to recognize an abnormal (but non-cancerous) growth in your uterus! UAE treatment for Adenomyosis

Missed Fibroid Symptoms

For one woman from Wales, that was exactly what happened. Tina Mathias, at her heaviest, weighed almost 340 pounds. She suffered from chronic back pain and constipation, but when she shared these symptoms with her doctor, they were considered a byproduct of her poor diet and excess weight.

At the time, Tina assumed her doctors were correct. “My periods were normal which is why I didn’t think it was a problem with my reproductive system,”  she says.

In the hopes of improving her health and alleviating her worst symptoms, Tina set out on a weight loss journey. She was extremely successful, dropping 182 pounds, but her problems didn’t resolve.

“I’d lost so much weight and I thought I’d be healthier, but the pain in my lower back, sides and abdomen carried on,” she says. “Then it got so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed and I would wince if my husband touched me.”

Still, Tina didn’t think her problems could be caused by fibroids. She simply continued eating healthfully, trying to lose more weight and hoping to feel better.

A Familiar Story

Nkem Osian is a Nigerian American who spent months living with heavy periods. She told Verywell Health that she waited to see her doctor because, “Talking about reproductive health was always taboo. Although I knew that my mother and sisters had experienced heavy periods, it wasn’t something that we ever really discussed. So when my periods started changing in my late twenties, I felt like it was just part of being female.”

Sadly, like Tina, Nkem delayed seeking help for her symptoms. Even though, she says, “I was bleeding for two weeks at a time, sometimes with significant spotting in between cycles. There were many times when I would bleed through my clothes on the train from my home in New Jersey to my office in New York. It was humiliating, but what could I do? That was just my life.”

Even worse? Nkem was passing large clots. And, while we tell patients that clots bigger than a quarter are a sign of concern, Nkem’s were even larger. She says, “They were the size of my fist and very painful to pass.” Still, she waited to see her doctor. So that, by the time she made an appointment, she was told, “You have a blood level not conducive to life.”

Clearly, at that point, Nkem’s doctor knew she needed help. But that’s not always the case. In fact, some women feel ignored by their physicians. In fact, a recent survey from the Fibroid Foundation found that 37% of women surveyed needed to see two or three different doctors before getting a fibroid diagnosis. Even worse? 15% of the women needed to see as many as five doctors before diagnosis. And a shocking 7% saw over five doctors before finding out what was wrong. Obviously, that can delay your fibroid diagnosis. (And treatment!)

Brush Offs from Doctors Delay Fibroids Diagnosis

An IUD or birth control with fibroids can help heavy periods

That was the case for LaToya Dwight, who also spent years living with fibroid symptoms. Every day, she faced fatigue or bloating. Some days brought painful sex, others saw cramping and constipation. But, despite seeing the same OB-GYN for 12 years, fibroids never entered the conversation. Until she went to get her IUD removed. And her doctor couldn’t locate the device inside her uterus!

After the Fibroids Diagnosis: Finding Answers

For Tina, answers came when she got thin, and she had a moment that put everything into perspective.

“When I really slimmed down, my belly was still so large. I looked six months pregnant,” she says. “Someone in work asked me when the baby was due and that’s when I knew something really wasn’t right.”

Still, doctors didn’t immediately figure out what was ailing Tina. They attributed her constipation to a low calorie diet, and didn’t think to examine her for fibroids until sex with her husband became extremely painful. Finally, she was sent for a scan, and doctors discovered a nine-pound fibroid, made of muscle and fibrous tissue, that had likely been growing in her uterus for a decade or more!

It was now dangerously close to perforating her bowel, and doctors told her she needed a life-saving hysterectomy. Just 36 at the time, Tina was devastated but, since the tumor was so large and in such a dangerous location, she had no choice. Now 43, Tina has had to give up on her dreams of having a family, but she is living a happy, healthy and pain-free life.

For LaToya, answers came in a different way. When her OB ordered an ultrasound to find the missing IUD, the technician asked her about her fibroids and symptoms. But the problem was, that was the first time anyone told her that she had these growths!

Once LaToya got back to her OB’s office, the only guidance she received was to get a hysterectomy. But, unlike Tina, LaToya still had fibroid treatment options. At first, she tried lifestyle changes and eating to help her fibroids. Then, through research, she found out about UFE, and found her minimally-invasive solution.

And Nkem? Well, initially, her doctor found one large fibroid. And put her on birth control to try and manage symptoms. But she developed more fibroids. So, now, she’s exploring treatment options instead of managing her symptoms. And she’s part of The White Dress project, to help ease the path for other women with fibroids.

Recognizing Fibroid Symptoms

Luckily, LaToya got a happy ending. But the saddest part of this story is that, had someone diagnosed Tina’s fibroid earlier on, she could have preserved her fertility. That’s why its important for women to know all of the symptoms of fibroids. Its crucial to recognize that, even if your periods are normal, you may still have a problem. You also need to be your own advocate: if your pain persists and your doctor insists its because of your weight, it’s not time to give up hope: it’s time to get a second opinion.

Or, if your doctor tells you to get a hysterectomy, get a second opinion and do your research! Because the earlier you treat fibroids, the more options that will be available for your treatment. And please remember: we welcome all women to our Houston fibroid treatment practice for second opinion treatment consultations. So schedule your appointment today!

Sources: DailymailHealthline

 

#WCW: Got a Heavy Period? This 85-lb weight loss winner relates!

If you have a heavy period, it’s more than just a drag. It can make you live in fear, always searching for the nearest bathroom, armed with spare clothes in case of leaks. That was the case for Tamika Warren-Jenkins, an Indianapolis woman who suffered from a heavy menstrual cycle for years, without realizing fibroids were to blame.

Some women are more at risk for heavy flow than others. And there’s lots of reasons your period gets heavy (we’ll go through them shortly. Because it’s important to know your why, so you can determine if you need to seek medical care.) But first, let’s talk about Tamika’s experience, and what it means to have a ‘heavy’ period. weight loss for heavy periods

Tamika’s Story: Family History and Weight Loss Efforts

While Takima’s mom and three aunts all had fibroids, she says it wasn’t something the family talked about. So, when Tamika started experiencing debilitating symptoms such as heavy periods, she didn’t immediately suspect fibroids.

By 2017, she told WishTV, she knew these non-cancerous tumors were responsible. But, instead of reviewing all her treatment options, her doctor suggested dropping extra weight to lower her estrogen levels. (While we don’t know what causes fibroids, high hormonal levels may contribute to their growth and development.)

Desperate for relief, Tamika says, “I put in the work. Because the first thing they said was less hormones, less estrogen. So if it’s less estrogen in your body, then they shouldn’t grow as fast. They should shrink. That was the thought at the time, but it didn’t happen that way.” Even though she dropped an incredible 85 pounds!

A Different Way Forward

Even after her weight transformation, Tamika found no relief from heavy periods. So, since she already had two children, and didn’t want more, she opted to treat her fibroids with a hysterectomy.

Ultimately, this decision was the right one for Tamika, who says she’s now living symptom-free. But not every woman needs to lose her uterus to find fibroid relief. And that’s why Tamika wants everyone to know her story. She says, “I know reproductive health is like, ugh, I don’t want to talk about that, but you do need to talk about it.” Which is why she’s our Woman Crush of the Week. And why we want you to read all about why Tamika, and other women, might be at higher risk for heavy periods.

Who’s at Risk for a Heavy Period?

Any woman, especially Black woman, with an increased fibroid risk is more likely to have a heavy period. In fact, about 39% of black women experience heavy bleeding at that time of the month. (And 70% of black women will likely develop fibroids.)

But fibroids aren’t the only condition that can affect your monthly flow. If you have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), your periods will probably be irregular. Still, when they do come, they are likely to be heavier than normal.

Also, women who are obese (with a BMI that’s 30 or higher), and women with copper IUDs have a higher risk for heavy periods. Finally, thyroid conditions, as well as health conditions that put you on blood thinners, could also leave you with a heavy flow each month.

Of course, sometimes a heavy period is no big deal. But sometimes, heavy flow can negatively impact other areas of your help. So keep reading to find out if you need medical help for your heavy period.

How Can I Tell if a Heavy Period is a Problem? tampons

Like everything to do with your body, some of this is personal. If your period is suddenly much heavier than it used to be (you’re soaking through tampons or pads more rapidly), that on its own could be a warning sign.

But there is a medical condition, known as menorrhagia, which refers to a possibly-dangerous amount of period blood loss. Signs of this condition include soaking your tampon or pad every hour, for several hours in a row. Or, if you need to use a tampon and pad to avoid leaking, you may have a problem. It’s also problematic if your period lasts longer than a week, if you pass clots that are bigger than a quarter, or if your flow is affecting your sleep and daily activities.

Why Is My Period So Heavy? 4 Potential Causes of Heavy Bleeding

There are several reasons your period might be heavy. Let’s explore a few, and discuss what to do if you think that’s your ‘why.’

1. You Have Fibroids

Fibroids are (almost always) non-cancerous tumors that develop in, on or around your uterus. Fibroids cause heavy and long periods. But that’s not the only symptom that pops up with fibroids. If your heavy periods are the result of fibroids, you may have other symptoms like pelvic pain, constipation, frequent urination, and even bloating or weight gain (larger fibroids can make you look like you’re in the early stages of pregnancy!)

If you experience heavy periods, and any of the other fibroid symptoms we described, call your gynecologist or a fibroid specialist for a screening.

2. You’ve Got Thyroid Problems

Your thyroid actually plays a role in regulating your menstrual cycle, so when it’s malfunctioning, your period could stop completely. Or it could get really heavy. Typically, heavy periods are a sign of an underactive thyroid because this can impact your ovaries progesterone production, and that’s the hormone which regulates your period flow.

If an underactive thyroid is causing your heavy periods, you may also experience fatigue, dry skin, brittle nails and hair loss. Got these symptoms too? It’s best to seek the advice of an endocrinologist regarding your thyroid help.

3. You’re Entering Menopause

In the years and months before menopause, your period will change. It won’t come as often, and it could last longer, and be heavier when it does show up.

Since your period is coming less frequently, your uterine lining will get thicker before it sheds. This means when it does arrive, your period will be much heavier. You may also pass more and larger clots. So, if you’re approaching the age of menopause, and your period’s getting heavier, you don’t need to be concerned. Instead, acknowledge your changing body and start preparing mentally for your next stage of life.

4. That Extra Exercise is Causing Changes Happy African American Woman Smiling Outside

Are you using the pandemic to become a crazy runner? Or taking online fitness classes every single day? When you suddenly ramp up your activity levels, your adjusting body may lose its hormonal balance. As a result, your periods may get heavier. And this heavy flow could last for a few cycles, especially if you keep upping your fitness game.

If you’ve been training extra hard during the pandemic, and now your flow is off, you probably don’t need to go into your doctor’s office. You may, however, want to discuss hormone-balancing measures you could take from home. And possibly build a rest day into your schedule!

Other Causes of Heavy, Painful Periods

There are other factors which make your periods more likely to be painful. These include your age (periods tend to be more painful before you turn 20), and your pregnancy history (if you haven’t had a baby, painful periods are more likely.) If you’re a smoker, or have a family history of painful periods, your risk is also higher.

Another factor to consider is when you started your period. If your first menstrual cycle arrived before you turned 11, this could increase your risk for period pain. And, finally, aside from fibroids, other chronic conditions can make your period more painful. These include Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which is a  condition triggered by the hormonal changes in your body that begin 1 to 2 weeks before your period. Endometriosis could also be responsible. This is a condition in which your uterine cells grow outside of the uterus, typically on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, or even on your pelvic lining.

Now you know some possible causes for your heavy, painful periods, it’s time to start looking carefully at all of your menstrual symptoms. And please know that, even in these crazy times, we are here to help you find relief from period pain. Houston fibroids is open and here for you!

Sources: International Journal of Obstetrics and GynecologyPrevention Magazine, Oprah Magazine

Why We’ve Got a Fibroid Treatment Crisis

So many women are affected by fibroids, and we are lucky to have many fibroid treatment options. But here’s a scary fact about fibroids: Most women develop fibroids by the time they are 50.  But about 57% of women don’t know they are at risk! Worse, 44% of women with fibroids aren’t told about all of their treatment options, and a shocking 11% of women think hysterectomies are the only way to treat fibroids!

Unfortunately, the news keeps getting worse. In another recent survey of women age 16 to 64, 64% of those women said they’d immediately schedule whatever procedure their doctor recommended. And, in most cases, stated that was a hysterectomy. Sadly, just 23% of the women said they’d get a second opinion, or research less invasive fibroid treatments.

Sharing Fibroid Treatment Information

Because so many women don’t know their fibroid treatment options, we’re taking part in the #FibroidFix project. Launched by the Society of Interventional Radiology, the goal is to help women learn about UFE. This is a non-invasive treatment option for uterine fibroids. Unlike many other treatment options, UFE is not a surgery. Treatment is delivered through an artery in your left wrist. Using specialized X-Ray equipment, your doctor injects small spheres through a catheter and into the blood flow that supplies your growing fibroids. The spheres, also known as embolic material, are designed to block the vessels around a fibroid, cutting off its oxygen and blood supply so that it starts to shrink. The embolic material remains permanently in place, so that the fibroid can’t start to grow again. news & events

Unlike a hysterectomy or other fibroid treatments, UFE is minimally invasive. The procedure usually lasts about one hour, and most patients can stand and walk immediately afterwards. Though usually performed in a hospital, UFE is typically an outpatient procedure.

Banning Treatment Options

Other non-invasive treatments, such as certain forms of birth control, may help relieve fibroid symptoms. But other drugs, such as mifepristone, may also help women find relief. Yet most women won’t hear about this option.

Why is that the case? Well, the Federal Drug Administration approves this drug for early abortions (up to 10 weeks.)  So, even though it can treat fibroid symptoms, and may help women with endometriosis and depression, it’s very hard to access. Even worse? Because of its link to abortions, researchers are less willing to study mifepristone. Meaning it’s unlikely to become an available fibroid treatment in the future.

Closing the Fibroid Information Gap

Despite all the obvious UFE benefits, many gynecologists aren’t telling women that UFE is an option when it comes to discussing fibroid treatments. In fact, 77% of women who know about UFE didn’t first learn about it from their gynocologists!

As physicians trained to perform UFE, Dr. Hardee and Dr. Fox think this lack of information is a major problem. In our practice, we think that women deserve to know all their options…and they also have the right to protect their fertility and avoid hysterectomies whenever possible! If you agree that fibroid patients deserve better information, join us in taking a stand! Spread the word about UFE and let’s get #FibroidFix trending on Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else you share the latest happenings! And let’s make sure you schedule an appointment at one of our Houston area fibroid treatment centers, so that you don’t fall victim to this crisis!

Sources:  Society of Interventional Radiology, USA Fibroid Women Health Survey

Cut out Trans Fat and Other Changes to Help Fibroid Pain

Many women diagnosed with fibroids—non-cancerous tumors in the uterus—want pain relief and help with fibroid symptoms like long, heavy periods. But many women would also prefer to avoid medical interventions, especially right now, during this time of coronavirus uncertainty. So, as Houston area fibroid specialists, we are often asked: can everyday changes help me find relief from fibroid pain?

Well, here’s the deal: changes in diet, exercise and self-care won’t cure your fibroids. But, there are some tweaks you can make to your everyday routine that could keep your fibroids from getting bigger. And others may make your fibroid symptoms more manageable. Let’s take a closer look.

 

Dietary Changes to Help Fibroid Pain

While the science on this matter is still not conclusive, evidence suggests that some foods can help shrink your fibroids, while others will potentially make them worse.

In a new study released in the journal of Fertility and Sterility, researchers studied over 80,000 pre-menopausal women between the ages of 24 and 42. Since their enrollment in 1989, researchers followed these women, monitoring their diets…and observing any fibroid development. During the 18 year study period, just over 8000 of these women developed fibroids. And what they discovered was interesting. While a generally high-fat diet didn’t appear to affect fibroid risk, there were two exceptions. Women who ate polyunsaturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids did develop fibroids more frequently. Some of the worst-offending foods include shortening, frozen dough, frozen pizza and microwave popcorn.

vitamins to fight fibroids

Research also suggests that highly caloric diets full of red meat and sugar can increase your risk of developing fibroids. In order to minimize your risk, then, you could try replacing red meats with leaner cuts like chicken or turkey. Better yet, you could try getting your protein from plant-based sources like beans or the new and widely-beloved Impossible or Beyond Burgers.

Which Vitamins Can Help my Fibroid Symptoms?

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, getting Vitamin A from animal sources may help reduce your fibroid risk. Also, they found that eating more fruit can help lower your fibroid risk factor. The study further noted that African American women are far more likely to develop fibroids, and tend to have diets lower in these fibroid-fighting foods and vitamins.

If you want to add fibroid-fighting vitamins to your diet, try including:

  • Salmon, tuna, mackerel and other fatty fish. These are natural sources of fish oil, which has been linked to slowed fibroid growth. But even if they don’t help fibroid pain, their omega-3 fatty acid content could help your heart health.
  • Blueberries, plums, apples, cherries and other flavonoid-packed fruit
  • Broccoli, lettuce, spinach and other green veggies
  • Lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus fruits
  • Broad beans

Food-based vitamin sources are best for absorbing your fibroid-fighting vitamins. But, if making changes to your diet isn’t an option, vitamin supplements are still a great choice.

Exercise and Fibroids

New year's resolutions

Exercise in and of itself doesn’t stomp out fibroids. But getting your sweat on can reduce your BMI (body mass index.) It will also help eliminate fat stores in your body. And both of those factors will make it easier for your body to process estrogen hormones.

In turn, this can help lower your fibroid risk, since high levels of estrogen in the body can increase your risk of developing new fibroids, or of seeing your existing tumors get larger. So check out these workouts to try if you have fibroids.

Alternative Therapies

When you live with fibroids, you may develop anemia, severe pain, or problems when you pee. And you will need to address those issues with your doctor, But, when it comes to managing your chronic pain before fibroid treatment, The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has some helpful suggestions. Some top tips include acupuncture, which is an ancient Chinese therapy that uses small needles, inserted to your skin at specific accupoints. Another suggestion? Try yoga, a flowing, low-impact exercise that can boost your fitness while also offering you helpful breathing exercises. Additionally, deep breathing, meditation and therapeutic massage can all offer temporary relief. Still, in order to find permanent fibroid pain relief, you’ll need to treat your fibroids, not just your symptoms.

When fibroids are small, lifestyle changes can certainly help you keep fibroids in check so you can live your normal life. But when tumors grow large, or your symptoms are severe, targeted fibroid treatment will be a better option. Contact our Houston fibroid specialists today to see if our minimally invasive treatment protocol is your best option.

Sources: Health.Harvard.Edu, mayoclinic.org, Journal of Fertility and Sterility

 

These 4 Fibroid Myths are Worth Forgetting

Fibroid myths are a big problem in this country. They force many women with fibroids into a hysterectomy, thinking there are no other treatment options. So, if you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, here’s the truth you need to know.

With this diagnosis, you may experience side effects like heavy periods, pelvic pain and constipation. You may have difficulties becoming pregnant, or carrying a pregnancy to term. You will certainly want to talk to your doctors about all the treatment options that are available to you. Those are the facts. Now, here are the fictions that you need to dismiss:

MYTH #1: Untreated Fibroids Will Keep On Growing 

Some fibroids, if left alone, will keep on growing. In fact, some women who delay fibroid treatment end up with fibroids the size of a nine-month-old fetus. But that is not always the case. Many women with fibroids will not even realize it, because their tumors are tiny, stable in size, and cause no symptoms. Other fibroids may grow to a certain point and then stop growing altogether. And, on rare occasions, some fibroids will rupture, creating a medical emergency.

But here’s the tricky part: it’s hard to know what kind of growth pattern your fibroid will follow. For that reason, even if you decide to delay treatment, you will want to see your doctor regularly to monitor tumor development. And remember, the smaller your fibroid, the more treatment options available to you.

Fibroid MYTHs #2: Fibroids must be removed.

Fibroids that aren’t causing symptoms may not require any form of treatment, especially if you’ve completed your family or have no interest in becoming pregnant. If your fibroids are causing symptoms like heavy bleeding, severe pain or fertility problems, you’ll likely want to seek treatment, but surgeries like myomectomies (removal of the fibroid) or hysterectomies (removal of the uterus) are not your only options.

If you’ve decided to treat your fibroids, you may be able to undergo Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive treatment option that shrinks your fibroids over time by blocking their blood flow. Not everyone is a candidate, but if you are looking for a treatment option with little downtime and no hospital stays, it’s worth exploring with your interventional radiologist.

Fibroid MYTH #3: Taking medication can make fibroids disappear.

Nonsurgical fibroid treatments, like UFE, are sometimes an option. And some other treatment options, like progesterone-based pills or shots, or certain birth controls, can lessen fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding. Some drugs may even help shrink your fibroids over time, but the benefits will disappear as soon as you get off the meds. Additionally, several fibroid medications have recently been connected to other, more serious, health complications

MYTH #4: Menopause Cures Fibroids

While many women will experience relief from fibroids after the onset of menopause, that’s not the case for everyone. In fact, if you decide to undergo hormone replacement therapy to manage menopause symptoms, you may even see new fibroid development!

Postmenopausal women can still require treatment for fibroids. And for many of these women, who have completed their families,  a nonsurgical approach like UFE will be the ideal treatment option.

If you are facing a fibroid diagnosis, don’t listen to the myths or rumors. Speak to your doctor about all the treatment options available, and make an informed decision based on the facts alone. Then, schedule a consultation with our Houston-area fibroid specialists. We’ll help you decide if UFE could help you find relief.

Here’s How Period Pain Hurts Your Career

Women with fibroids know that period pain is a big deal, but did you know it could be a pain on the job, too? In a new Dutch study, researchers found that women lose almost nine productive work and school days each year because of painful periods!

Periods Take Women off the Job

For the study, published in the BMJ, researchers followed over 32,000 women ages 15-45. They watched how often the women missed work or school, and how often they showed up in pain, losing productivity. What they found was upsetting: 13.8 percent of the women reported missing work during their periods. Another 3.4 percent reported taking time off from school or work almost every time they had their periods. And even when they showed up, 80.7% of women reported being unproductive on the job when dealing with their periods. In all, period pain takes a major toll on women in the school and workforce.

Fibroids Mess with your Period…and so much more

Many of the women in this study were simply dealing with typical menstrual cramps. Now, imagine if the women in the study were all dealing with fibroids, which can make your period longer, heavier and more painful. We’re guessing those absent and unproductive days would only increase!l

Of course, heavy, painful periods aren’t the only way fibroids can hurt your body. Studies show that about 30% of women with fibroids also experience painful sex, back pain, pelvic pain or other discomforts. Like your period pain, these fibroid symptoms could show up intermittently. Or, for some women, fibroid pain could be chronic. And, either way, it can interfere with your lifestyle, making you skip workouts, work days or more.

So, that’s the bad news…but here’s the good. Even if you have fibroids, painful periods don’t have to be your forever problem. There are non-invasive treatment options that can alleviate your symptoms without surgery or hospital stays. Want to learn more? Set up a consultation with our Houston-area fibroid specialists to learn if you are a good candidate for Uterine Fibroid Embolization.

Sources: https://bmjopen.bmj.com

 

Here’s Why Congress Must Pass the Fibroid Bill

Just before she made history as the first female VP, Kamala Harris introduced a new fibroid bill.  Why? After all these years, we still don’t know why women develop these non-cancerous tumors. Thankfully, the Senator’s bill to fund fibroid research and education will change all that.

Senator Harris told Refinery 29, “Millions of women across the country are affected by uterine fibroids, which can present serious health complications. (These include) maternal mortality and morbidity, an ongoing crisis, especially for Black women.”

And she continued. “We have an opportunity to change that with the Uterine Fibroids Research and Education Act. I’m proud to work with Congresswoman [Yvette] Clarke to ensure that women get the care, support, and knowledge they need.”

The Gap in Fibroid Research  Funding fibroid research to narrow the Black woman's healthcare gap

Here’s the problem. Up to 80% of women develop fibroids before they turn 50. In fact, 26 million women between the ages of 15 and 50 have uterine fibroids now. And more than 15 million have painful fibroid symptoms.

But we still don’t know why. Further complicating the problem? Black women develop fibroids more frequently. But they face a healthcare gap. Doctors often discount or downplay their pain and symptoms. Which is why part of the bill includes funding for community fibroid education.

Recently, Illinois Congresswoman Robin Kelly shared her thoughts on the bill’s importance. She said, “Health education is an empowerment tool for women to ensure that they can make informed health decisions that lead to a better life, physically, mentally, and emotionally. If women have more information, they can make better decisions about their own health.”

That’s even more important since fibroids look different in every woman. But common symptoms include pelvic pain and long, heavy periods. You may have constipation and/or frequent urination. Bloating and painful intercourse are also signs of fibroids. In some cases, you may go years without  experiencing symptoms. Other times, your fibroids cause trouble immediately.

Again, it’s not clear why some women’s fibroids stay small. But other women’s growths disrupt their lives. And, as we know, when fibroid pain is severe, it can throw women’s lives off track. Going to school or work can become increasingly difficult. Which is something we all want to change.

Finding a Way Forward

Representative Clarke says, “This bill is an important first step towards making women’s healthcare a priority. Many women who suffer from uterine fibroids have their condition go undiagnosed as a result of a lack of education about the disease. Each year, approximately 7 million women in the U.S. suffer the symptoms of fibroids … This disease has ravaged the lives of women across the country, and increasing funding for research and public education related to fibroids is critical to reversing that trend. If we are serious about fixing inequities in our healthcare system, then we must treat uterine fibroids with the funding and attention it deserves.”

What’s Included in Senator Harris’ Fibroid Bill Houston Fibroids Specialists support the fibroid bill

To that end, the new bill asks to give the National Institutes of Health (NIH) $30 million each year, for the next five years. The purpose?  To expand uterine fibroids research, create a uterine fibroids public education program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to expand and improve data collection on which groups are affected by uterine fibroids, among other aims.

It directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to prove information on available services for women who experience fibroid symptoms.

Finally, the bills asks the Health Resources and Service Administration to arm health care providers with  fibroid information. These materials should highlight that women of color have elevated fibroid risks. And should include information on all available treatment options, including minimally invasive protocols like UFE.

The bill is supported by the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Association of Nurse Practitioners, the Fibroid Foundation, and many other organizations.

Strong Support for Fibroid Education

While the bill has many supporters, one key group of backers is The White Dress Project. We’ve talked about this organization quite a bit on the blog, because its goals align with our own: to help women understand all their treatment options.

Recently, Dr. John C Lipman of the Free from Fibroids Foundation spoke about the need to pass this bill. He sees this education bill as the only way to stop the numerous, avoidable, hysterectomies for fibroids. He says, “One aggressive driver of the excessive number of unnecessary hysterectomies for uterine fibroids is the significant resources and influence that the pharmaceutical and surgical device manufacturers have on physicians and hospitals to perpetuate this “status quo” of hysterectomy.”

This push is even worse, he says, because “I see patients every day who are suffering from fibroids and don’t want a hysterectomy. They simply want their life back. Hysterectomies take away a woman’s ability to bear children, but also do more to a woman’s body after the surgical wounds heal.

It’s time to challenge the outdated practice of performing life-changing, unnecessary hysterectomy without first considering much safer, less expensive, and less invasive non-surgical options like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE).”

For those reasons, Dr. Lipman says, “Congress has an opportunity to help in this fight against fibroids and unnecessary hysterectomies and take an important step toward empowering and supporting women by passing the bipartisan Stephanie Tubbs Jones Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act of 2021 (S. 2444/H.R. 2007). This overdue legislation will provide research to try to find out where fibroids come from and how to prevent them and best treat them.”

Houston Fibroid Treatment Options

Today, we join in that call. And we thank Vice President Harris, Representative Clarke and all the women and organizations who advance fibroid awareness. Now, we invite you to explore all your fibroid treatment options before settling on an invasive surgery like a hysterectomy. And schedule an appointment with our Houston area fibroid specialists to see if you’re a candidate for UFE.

Sources: Yahoo!Life, Refinery 29

Fibroids after Menopause: What you Need to Know

Did you know that you can still have fibroids after menopause? While uncommon, this is true. Now, uterine fibroids are an extremely common type of noncancerous tumor. Many women don’t even know they have fibroids, because they don’t experience symptoms, like pain or heavy menstrual flow. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there, waiting to cause problems. Or that they’ll always resolve after your monthly period slows down or stops.

Fibroids During Menopause

During menopause, your body’s sudden lack of reproductive hormones can cause fibroids to shrink. Typically, the change also prevents new fibroids from forming, but this is not always the case. Menopause is not a guaranteed cure for fibroids, which means that you may continue to experience uterine fibroid symptoms during and after menopause. uterine fibroids in menopause

Risk Factors

Certain conditions or factors can contribute to your likelihood of developing uterine fibroids. These include:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Obesity
  • Low vitamin D levels. We’ve recently learned that having enough vitamin D allows your body to produce chemicals that may prevent fibroid growth. So having a deficiency could leave you vulnerable to fibroids after menopause, or at any other time.
  • A family history of uterine fibroids
  • An extended period of extreme stress
  • No history of pregnancy
  • African-American ethnicity
  • Being 40+ years of age

Treating Fibroids After Menopause

There are several treatment options available for women with uterine fibroids including:

Many of these treatments are the same for all women, regardless of age.  Still, menopause may make a more permanent surgical option, like a hysterectomy, more attractive since your childbearing years are over. Younger women that still plan to have children typically prefer to take oral contraceptives or undergo a minimally invasive procedure like UFE.

Even if you’ve experienced menopause, a hysterectomy is a very invasive procedure. That’s why it is important to discuss all of these options with your women’s health specialist. Together, we can help you reach a decision based on your current health and outlook on potential treatments. Click here to schedule an appointment with one of the fibroid specialists of Houston Fibroids, or please contact our office today at (713) 575-3686.

 

#WCW: Equal Fibroid Care for Black Women

It’s really hard to find equal fibroid care for black women. That’s something Kimberly Wilson, our Woman Crush Wednesday nominee, learned the hard way. But, after her healthcare struggle, she’s making it easier to find equal care for black women. And, together with efforts from other groups, Wilson is leveling the playing healthcare playing field. Which is why we’re sharing her story today, and naming her our #WCW, woman crush of the week.

Getting a Fibroid Diagnosis Kimberly Wilson demands equal fibroid care for black women

In 2017, Wilson was diagnosed with fibroids. But, even though she had many fibroid symptoms, getting that diagnosis was really hard. She told Essence magazine, “Over a period of six months, I visited four different providers—all of whom were White men. Two completely dismissed my pain and trauma, while the other two stated that a hysterectomy was my only option. It wasn’t until finding a Black physician—over 100 miles away, that I received the culturally competent care that I needed and deserved.”

After her experience, Wilson wanted to make it easier for women of color to access quality healthcare. And part of that, she realized, meant these women needed help finding culturally sensitive healthcare providers.

That’s when she created HUED, a website that connects patients with medical professionals that specifically understand their cultural, physical and mental-health needs. Her goal? To help people of color access healthcare providers they could trust. Physicians who would listen to their needs. And never dismiss their reports of painful symptoms.

Today, that platform is helping black women access equal fibroid care. And care for many other health conditions. So we applaud Wilson’s efforts. Plus, we’re happy to report, she’s not alone in this fight.

Say Goodbye Fibroids

The White Dress Project, one of our favorite organizations, is also joining the fight. They’ve partnered with Acessa Health Inc. on the Goodbye Fibroids initiative. It’s goal? To unite women, doctors and political leaders in raising awareness of and improving care for women living with fibroids.

They’ve made presentations at the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference. And they’ve spent time discussing how women of different races don’t receiving the same quality of fibroid care.

As Acessa Health CEO Kim Rodriguez noted, “Unfortunately, there is a well-established racial barrier to women receiving less invasive alternatives to hysterectomy.”

In other words, black women have a much higher risk of developing fibroids. But they are much less likely to receive information about the full range of fibroid treatment options. Especially about minimally invasive procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization.

The facts are clear (and upsetting.) Among women who treated their fibroids with hysterectomies, African American women were less likely to receive a minimally invasive surgery compared to white women. They were also 40% more likely to develop complications. And nearly three times as likely to have an extended hospital stay. Plus, three times as likely to die after their procedures.

While these are statistics for hysterectomies, they don’t even begin to explore other fibroid treatment options. Which likely means that women aren’t even being informed about hysterectomy alternatives. In other words, equal fibroid care for black women is still a distant dream.

Working to Create Equal Fibroid Care for Black Women

Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project, also spoke to the Black Caucus. She said, “As a community we need to begin to address and change the clear, systematic and structural defect within the US healthcare system. [It] disproportionately pushes women of color toward the most invasive option, which is hysterectomy.”

Of course, for Valbrun, this cause is very personal. As she recently shared on her platform at CNN.com, “I’ve heard tales of women with light periods—you know, the ones where you can play tennis or have brunch, like in a tampon commercial. But since I was 14, my menstrual cycles have been something to survive, not celebrate. And it was years until I found out the reason why: Just like my mother, I have uterine fibroids.”

Diagnosed later in life, the blows kept coming for Valbrun. When she and her new husband tried getting pregnant, her doctor said she had 27 fibroids, and “They advised me to look for a surrogate.” Now, fibroids can interfere with conception.  But Valbrun wasn’t willing to give up. Instead, she says, “I cried for days. Then I decided to get a second opinion.”

Luckily for Valbrun, at her next medical appointment, she learned, “there was still a chance” for her to conceive.  First, she removed those 27 fibroids via myomectomy. Five years later, she needed laparoscopic surgery to remove new growths. Recently, she chose to shave down an existing fibroid. And today she says, ” I’m still on my path to motherhood, and have experienced two failed embryo transfers. Now, with my uterus as clean as possible, we will try again.”

Help for Fibroids in Houston

As interventional radiologists in Houston, we stand with Wilson and Valbrun. We want all women to know their fibroid treatment options, and to keep their fertility options open. And we want black women to get equal care and attention from fibroid specialists.

To help that cause, we promote #FibroidFix. This is a campaign to make all women aware of all the available treatment options for fibroids. Particularly the ones that preserve their fertility and minimize the risk of surgical complications. Will you join us in spreading the word?

We invite you to reach out to us for more information about UFE. And we ask you to share this information with all your female friends. You’ll help us make better healthcare accessible to every woman in this country.

Sources: Essence Magazine, Acessa Health 

#WCW: Raquel K Finds an Alternative to Fibroid Surgery

So many women are looking for an alternative to fibroid surgery. After all, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that over 26 million women aged 15-50 have fibroids, and many need relief from painful symptoms. That’s why we often feature celebrity fibroid warriors as our Woman Crush Wednesday, hoping to spread awareness about other options. But this week we get to draw from our own patient pool. A few months ago, we welcomed Raquel K. to our Houston area fibroid practice; as she explains, she came to us because she was, “looking for an alternative to fibroid surgery.”

Like many African American women, Raquel was diagnosed with fibroids and was facing scary treatment options like surgical removal of her tumors or even of her uterus (hysterectomy.) When she discovered our practice and scheduled her first appointment, she says, “Dr. Fox and his team took time to explain the UFE procedure and made me feel very comfortable.”

What is UFE?

UFE (Uterine Fibroid Embolization) is a minimally invasive alternative fibroid treatment. It’s also an outpatient procedure, which means it usually won’t require an overnight hospital stay.

During treatment, our doctors insert a catheter through our patient’s femoral artery, in your upper thigh. Next, we guide the catheter to the uterine artery until we get close to your fibroid tumor. Finally, we inject an embolic substance into the catheter. The embolic material blocks the vessels around the fibroid, cutting off its blood and oxygen. Soon, your fibroids shrink. And, since the embolic material is permanently lodged in the blood vessels at the fibroid site, they don’t come back.

After Raquel successfully underwent her UFE procedure, she turned to our practice Facebook page to share her story. “My quality of life has improved greatly since my UFE and I am very happy with my results,” she revealed. So now, she’s part of the team helping spread the word about this alternative #FibroidFix. And, in our well-versed hashtag books, that earns her a spot on the #WCW list, as well!

Life After UFE: What to Expect

Right after your procedure, you can expect to experience mild cramping, similar to period symptoms. By the next day, you should be able to return to work. And two weeks later, you’ll be back to full normal activities.

And what about your fibroid symptoms? Here’s the great news. Like Raquel, your symptoms should dramatically improve or resolve completely. Take painful sex, for example. Studies show that, one year after UFE, almost 80% of women who chose this treatment saw significant boosts in the quality of their sex lives.

Now, what happens if you want to have a baby after having minimally invasive fibroid treatments? Well, we know that you can get pregnant following this procedure. And certain tweaks, like the limited embolization approach, may make conceiving and carrying a child easier later on. Still, there are remaining questions. So we suggest making a consultation appointment with our fibroid experts today if you’re considering UFE. Together, we can review your unique situation. Then, we’ll decide if UFE is the right alternative to fibroid surgery for your needs.

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