Author: Houston Fibroids

Why You Need to Address Heavy Periods

When you’re dealing with uterine fibroids, your menstrual flow can become very heavy. Your periods may also last longer than the typical seven day window. Obviously, this can be uncomfortable and, at times, inconvenient. But if you’re thinking that you should just deal with the annoyance, think again. As it turns out, heavy periods can actually affect other areas of your health. 

How Do I Know if My Periods Are Abnormal?

It’s easy to say that a heavy period could be cause for concern, but it can be difficult to quantify what “heavy” really means. Flow varies from woman to woman, so any major change could be problematic. As a general rule of thumb, however, excessively heavy bleeding is defined as: 

  • Less than 21 days between your periods (longer than 35 days between cycles is also unusual, but this would not be considered a problem of excess bleeding)
  • Periods that last longer than 7 days
  • Passing large clots during your period (anything bigger than the size of a quarter warrants a discussion with your doctor)
  • Losing more than 80 cc of blood (of course, no one expects you to actually measure your blood loss, but if you’re soaking through super tampons or pads in an hour or less, chances are you’re losing too much blood.)

My Period is Too Heavy – What Do I Do Now?

If you think that your periods are too heavy, talk to your doctor right away. Make an appointment with your gyno, even if it’s not time for your annual exam. Here’s why: heavy periods can lead to anemia, a condition that sets in when you don’t have enough iron in your blood. Anemia needs to be addressed immediately, because it can affect your body’s ability to carry oxygen to your extremities. Over time, it can also lead to iron deficiency which, in turn, can affect the body’s bone marrow response. Additionally, anemia can cause symptoms like fatigue, weakness, dizziness, pain, headaches, cold hands and feet, chest pain and even heart attacks. 

Once you mention heavy bleeding to your doctor, he or she will likely suggest an anemia screening, to make sure you’re staying ahead of the issue. But it’s also important to try and determine the cause of your heavy bleeding, or else your continued blood loss will likely keep you in an anemic state. 

Fibroids and Heavy Periods

Uterine fibroids  can develop within the uterine lining (submucosal), the uterine muscle (intramural) or outside the uterine lining (subserosal.) Submucosal fibroids may increase the area of the lining, which causes you to bleed more when it is shed each month. These fibroids may also hinder your body’s ability to stop bleeding once it starts.

Intramural fibroids can increase the blood flow that reaches your uterus, and can also expand the size of your uterine cavity, thereby increasing bleeding.

If fibroids are the cause of your heavy menstrual flow, you will need to treat your fibroids in order to stop the excessive bleeding. Be sure and discuss all your treatment options, both surgical and minimally invasive, when deciding how best to address your fibroids and heavy mentrual flow. 

Sources: semcor.ubc.ca, The Center for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, cdc.gov, The Centers for Disease Control 

 

3 Reasons to Choose UFE Over Surgery

When you have uterine fibroids, it’s important to explore all your treatment options. Many women with fibroids are told they need a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus), but they could still find relief with myomectomy (surgical removal of the tumor) or uterine fibroid embolization (a minimally invasive treatment protocol that blocks blood flow to your fibroids, causing them to shrink.) 

While hysterectomy is a drastic surgery, some women may be confused abut which of the two less invasive treament options would be their best choice. Now, new research is giving women two important reasons to choose UFE. 

3 Main Advantages of Uterine Fibroid Embolization 

According to research conducted by Dr. Jemianne Bautista-Jia, UFE may be more effective than myomectomy at relieving fibroid symptoms. The study discovered these three advantages: 

  1. Women with UFE were less likely to need secondary procedures than women who had myomectomy
  2. Women were less likely to need a blood transfusion after UFE than following surgery
  3. Women whose fibroids caused heavy menstrual bleeding experienced better relief with UFE than with myomectomy

While the study did note that more women became pregnant after myomectomy than after UFE, all other findings pointed women towards greater relief with UFE. Dr. Bautista-Jia, in presenting the findings wanted women with fibroids to take away his message: if heavy bleeding is your main fibroid symptom, UFE is the way to go. She also suggested that all women with symptomatic fibroids should explore UFE as a great treatment option. 

Want more info on UFE? Reach out and schedule a consultation with our Houston area fibroid specialists. 

Sources: evtoday.com, Society of Interventional Radiology

#WCW: Raquel K Finds an Alternative to Fibroid Surgery

Many times, we feature celebrity fibroid warriors as our Woman Crush Wednesday, 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 having surgery due to fibroids.”

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.” UFE (Uterine Fibroid Embolization) is an alternative treatment for fibroids that is minimally invasive and is performed as an out-patient procedure. 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 is designed to block the vessels around the fibroid, depriving it of the blood and oxygen it needs to grow. The blood and oxygen deprivation results in the shrinking of your fibroids, and the embolic material remains permanently in the blood vessels at the fibroid site. 

After Raquel successfully underwent her UFE procedure, she turned to our practice Facebook page to share her story, helping other patients learn about UFE. In telling her fellow fibroid patients, “My quality of life has improved greatly since my UFE and I am very happy with my results,” she’s 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! 

It’s Time to Speak Up About Period Symptoms!

According to a new Dutch study, many women who suffer from heavy, painful periods keep their suffering to themselves. Even when these symptoms affect their ability to live a normal life! 

After conducting a nationwide survey of 45,000, researchers found that 85% of the respondents experienced painful cramps during their periods. 77% had mood disorders, and 71% experienced near crippling exhaustion. And 33% of the respondents reported that these symptoms kept them from performing their daily activities. But among those 33% who had to cut back on their activities because of their periods, less than half told their doctors or family members the reason for their life changes. 

Lead study author Dr. Mark Schoep of Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands said, ““We think there is a taboo on menstrual symptoms, mainly because women think this is just a normal part of life, and they might feel it is not accepted to openly discuss this matter.”

Painful Periods Are NOT Normal

While mild cramping isn’t unusual during your period, symptoms that affect your daily life are a problem you should talk about with your doctor. In fact, menstrual symptoms can indicate serious complications, like uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis. If you don’t talk to your doctor about these symptoms, you may miss a diagnosis-and keep suffering for nor reason. 

“Women need to know that they should seek health care if they have menstrual symptoms that affect their daily life,” said Dr. Trine Stanley Karlsson of the University Hospital Karolinska in Stockholm, Sweden, who was also involved in the study.

At our Houston Fibroids center, we couldn’t agree more. We can help alleviate painful menstrual symptoms related to your fibroids: but only if you speak up! So stop keeping discomfort to yourself. The sooner you share your health information, the quicker we can get to work making you feel better. 

 

Are all fibroid tumors the same?

All fibroids, (also called myomas or leiomyomas) are non-cancerous growths of muscular tissues that develop in and on a woman’s uterus. Yet not all fibroids will develop in the same location, and not all of these tumors will cause the same symptoms. That’s why we tend to classify fibroids based on where they develop within a woman’s uterus. 

The Three Types of Fibroids

There are three different fibroid classifications.  Intramural fibroids grow almost entirely within the wall of the uterus.  Submucosal tumors grow from the uterine wall and push into the cavity of the uterus. Subserosal fibroids grow out of the uterine lining, poking through the uterine wall. Depending on the type or location of your uterine fibroids, you may experience different symptoms than a woman with a tumor in a different location. But, for all women with fibroids, symptoms tend to fall in three main categories: 

  • Pain
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Pressure

Fibroid Symptoms Based on Location

Bleeding
For all women, fibroids can cause long, heavy periods and/or bleeding even when it’s not that time of the month. All  fibroids affect blood flow to the uterus in some way, which is why your period typically gets heavier when you have fibroids. Women with submucosal fibroids typically experience the heaviest periods, because they push your uterine lining into the cavity, greatly expanding its reach. Heavy bleeding is a symptom that should be addressed right away with your doctor, since, over time, it can make women anemic. 

Pain 
Mild discomfort or cramping is often a normal part of your menstrual cycle: the cramps are caused by slight changes to your uterus as you shed its lining. When you have fibroids, the changes to the uterus are more significant, which is why your cramps are likely to be stronger and more painful with these tumors. Women with intramural or subserosal fibroids may also experience lower back pain, as their enlarged uterus pushes against the muscles of the back. And women with fibroid tumors located near the cervical opening may experience pain during sex, although certain positions will be more comfortable than others. 

Pressure
Women with fibroids often experience pressure or heaviness in the pelvis because the tumors increase the size of their uterus. Women with subserosal fibroids may become constipated or feel the need to urinate frequently, as their uterine lining expands and places pressure on either the bladder or the rectum. 

Regardless of where your fibroids are located, and no matter which symptoms you find most bothersome, relief is available, often without surgery. Contact our Houston area fibroid specialists to learn if you are a candidate for our minimally-invasive fibroid treatment

 

 

 

 

 

Study Proves that UFE is as effective as Fibroid Surgery

At the recent 2019 convention for the Society of Interventional Radiologists, we got some exciting news: UFE is just as effective a treatment for fibroids as myomectomy surgery!

Uterine fibroids are muscular tumors that develop in the wall of the uterus; they’re typically non-cancerous, and may sometimes go unnoticed by the women in whom they have developed. Symptomatic women may experience heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent urination and pain during sex, among other complications. Fibroids can also make it more difficult for women to become or remain pregnant. 

Many women are told that a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) is the answer to troubling fibroid symptoms. But women who don’t want to have a hysterectomy have to choose between other treatment options, including Uterine Fibroid Embolization and Myomectomy. UFE involves threading a thin tube into the blood vessel that supplies a fibroid tumor. Then, small plastic or gel particles are injected into the blood vessel to block it permanently, which causes the fibroid to shrink over time. Myomectomy, in contrast, involves surgical removal of a fibroid tumor; it is considered a more invasive treatment plan but may be a better option for women who want to become pregnant after fibroids. 

New Study on Fibroid Treatment Options

In this new study, researchers looked at data from 950 women, half of whom had UFE and half who had a myomectomy to treat fibroids. The women were followed for an average of seven years after their procedures.

After reviewing the data, the findings were pretty clear: the procedures appeared to be similarly effective at treating fibroids. And, among the women who had a myomectomy, there were higher rates of post-surgical complications, including the need for a blood transfusion (2.9 percent from the myomectomy group versus 1.1 for those who had UFE). 

Study author Dr. Jemianne Bautista-Jia said, “The two treatments were comparably effective [and] UFE resulted in more favorable outcomes.” Additionally, the radiology resident at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center noted, that there was less pain and shorter recovery times for the women who had UFE. Those women also reported a greater improvement in relief from heavy bleeding.

In spite of all these benefits, she noted that, “patients are often not fully informed of their treatment options.” She hopes these study findings will help raise UFE awareness. She encourages all women with fibroids to discuss UFE with their doctors before deciding on a course of treatment. 

6 Ways to Ease Fibroid Pain

Once you have been diagnosed with fibroids, it can take some time for you to decide on the best course of treatment. But, during that time, you may still be experiencing symptoms like pelvic pain, heavy periods, constipation, frequent urination or pain during intercourse. So if you need to find some relief while determining the next steps in your treatment plan, try any or all of these tips to help find some natural forms of relief from fibroid symptoms:

Managing Fibroids Without Drugs 

1.       Put aside the processed foods. We know how much you love your oreos, twinkies and other packaged  goodies, but here’s the deal: these processed foods are full of chemicals that can increase inflammation in the body. And inflammation can trigger more pain and a worsening of your existing symptoms.

2.       Same goes for refined sugar. Refined sugars—the ones like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup that are added to food items like cookies, cakes and cereals—promote inflammation and weight gain. We’ve already touched on the dangers of inflammation, but weight gain may actually be a bigger problem when it comes to fibroids, as extra pounds can lead to hormonal imbalances, and both of those conditions increase your fibroid risk.

3.       Ditch the alcohol. Like our previous two offenders, alcohol can lead to inflammation and weight gain. Putting down the spirits may help prevent your existing fibroids from expanding, and may help protect you from the development of new tumors.

4.       Grab those leafy greens. When you have fibroids, spinach and lettuce should be your new best friends. Their anti-inflammatory powers can really help keep the growth and symptoms of these non-cancerous tumors in check.

5.       Add some crunchy veggies, too. Foods like broccoli and cauliflower have been shown to help prevent fibroids from developing.

6.       Break a sweat. Exercise can help tamp down inflammation in the body. It can also help with weight control and hormonal balance. Plus, it releases feel-good endorphins that can make it easier to cope with painful fibroid symptoms.

#WCW: Growing Up Hip Hop’s Toya Wright

Welcome back to another installment of our Woman Crush Wednesday features. This week we’re highlighting Toya Wright, from We TV’s Growing Up Hip Hop, among other reality appearances the star has made. 

Back in 2017, Wright was diagnosed with uterine fibroids. At the time, she opened up to People Magazine about dealing with the effects of her conditions, which included heavy periods, bad cramping and the expansion of her uterus along with weight gain. She said: “I had to switch it up because I used to eat all types of stuff and I would just get bigger. I had to scale back and eat healthier things like fish and salads.” She also committed to working out four times a week, explaining: “I found exercising has been more helpful in relieving the symptoms. I do a lot of cardio, like walking and cycling. At that time of the month, the fibroids flare up, and when I exercise it helps me not feel so much pain.”

Then, in February of last year, Wright welcomed her daughter Reign (the star’s second child), and this routine became harder to follow. Last July, Wright admitted on Instagram, “I found myself hitting a plateau and getting bored with the gym.” 

Fast forward seven months, to Feb 2019, and Wright has recommitted to her fitness routine. She shared an Instagram video of her new workout routine, saying: “My first day back. … My goal is to lose 15 pounds…. I can do it!” While many fans commented that Wright looked great at her current weight, the star remains on her physical fitness journey, sharing her progress to help other fibroid sufferers stay strong. 

And reading responses like “This is inspirational I need to go too,” from the comments section of her feed is enough to earn Toya her spot in our #WCW hall of fame. Thank you for helping inspire women to manage their fibroid pain and stay fit and healthy! 

WCW: Fibroid Treatment Leads to Cancer Discovery

When we celebrate our Woman Crush Wednesdays, we often highlight celebrities who used their public platforms to share a fibroid journey. But this week, we’re taking a slightly different direction. This week, we’re celebrating Dartinia Hull, an average woman whose fibroid journey helped uncover a far more serious medical problem: ovarian cancer. 

Dartinia is a 52 year old woman from Charlotte, NC, who recently penned an article about her story for Q City Metro’s website. Here is what she revealed: “

Three years ago, in yoga, I struggled to do a very basic move: up dog. It’s a stren

gth and balance move, and a counter to down dog, an upward backbend. It’s a move I sometimes nail and sometimes don’t, which is fine.

But as I lifted my upper body from the mat, my guts cramped, like my insides had twisted. I stood up and tried to walk off the cramp. That night, I rubbed the sore spot on my belly and felt a lump.”

Searching For Answers  

After that discovery, Hull knew something was wrong, so she went to see her doctor. While she’d assumed that the problem was an injury like a hernia, she was immediately told otherwise: Hull’s doctor revealed she had a large fibroid (a non-cancerous growth of muscular tissue within the uterus.) 

She then went to see her OB-GYN, who ordered an ultrasound and discovered that Hull had several fibroids. One of her ovaries had also shrunk to the point of disapearing. Because of her age and the size of her fibroids, Hull ultimately opted for a hysterectomy (something that many women can avoid if they seek alternative therapy options.) 

But when she went into surgery to remove her uterus, doctors discovered something even more frightening: one of the three growths they’d diagnosed as fibroids was actually a cancerous tumor. Hull says: “

When we thought I had three fibroids, we named them Curly, Larry and Moe. Moe was the largest, and actually, the cancer. They didn’t do a CT scan, which might not have found anything, anyway, because Moe hadn’t ruptured.

The symptoms can mimic peri-menopause. A woman can have extended, heavy periods, which are debilitating and can lead to low hemoglobin. She is often fatigued, sometimes forgetful, and can have bloating and gastrointestinal issues and either pelvic or abdominal pain. A woman can feel full after only a few bites, and experience pain during sex. These symptoms often appear gradually. Because the symptoms of OC are considered “vague,” this type of cancer is one of the more dangerous of all diseases. Often diagnosed at a later stage, it spreads quickly. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among women, more so for black women because of later diagnosis, even though black women have a lower rate of ovarian cancer than white women.” 

Early Detection is Key

Thanks to Hull’s fibroid treatment, doctors were able to discover her cancer early enough in the game to allow for successful cancer treatment. Hull shared this article hoping that women will know that fibroid and cancer symptoms often overlap. And, in either case, they should not be ignored. Her message to other women is this: “If you notice symptoms (especially a lump in your abdomen), tell your OB-GYN or your primary care doctor. Even if you “just don’t feel right,” tell your doctors, and ask them to give you a pelvic exam.” Being that pushy patient just might be the decision that saves your life! 

Warning: Hidden Danger in African American Hair Products

Hair products–can’t live without ’em, right? Well, as it turns out, it also may not be wise to live with them. 

According to the Silent Spring Institute, certain hair products, especially those marketed to black women, are full of extremely harmful chemicals. Ever wondered why they smell so bad? It’s basically the poisons inside them, revealing their true nature through their scent. 

There’s much more science to back up this claim. A 2017 study by researchers at Rutgers University found a link between breast cancer and Black women’s use of hair relaxers. A 2012 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology associated fibroid risk with the use of hair relaxers. Shirley McDonald of the Hair and Scalp Clinic says, “We now know that many hair products contain chemicals that are considered carcinogenic and/or hormone disrupters, leading to increased risk of medical issues such as fibroids (non-cancerous tumors that grow in the uterus, potentially damaging fertility and leading to a host of other complications). Trichologists see lots of conditions that are likely to be triggered by hair products, particularly central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, a type of permanent hair loss to the crown area of the scalp.”

Chemicals in Black Women’s Hair Products

Among the many dangerous substances in black women’s hair products? Cyclosiloxanes, nonylphenols (also found in certain detergents), and phthalates (also found in plastics, they are the main reason people are working to ban plastics from food containers.) Besides their toxicity, each of these chemicals share a common bond–they have all been linked to hormone disruption as well as an increased risk of developing fibroids, asthma, infertility, and even cancer. That’s a hefty price to pay for shinier hair. 

Throwing Flames on the Fire
Being exposed to these chemicals is particularly troubling for black women, as they already have a higher risk of developing fibroids than other populations of women. Family history plays a part in that risk but, more and more, certain hair products are also starting to shoulder the blame. According to the Silent Spring study mentioned earlier, 80% of Black hair products they tested contained “endocrine-disrupting and asthma-causing chemicals.” Products examined included by the study included relaxers, hot oil treatments, leave-in conditioners, and anti-frizz balms. The scariest statistic? Hair relaxers that specifically targeted children had the highest levels of chemicals; many of those chemicals have already been banned in the EU. 

Taking Action
While you can’t do anything about your family history, being selective about the hair products you choose can certainly go along way towards protecting your health. To find out more about dangerous hair care products and your individual fibroid risk, please contact our office for a consultation with Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee.