Author: Houston Fibroids

#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.”

As interventional radiologists in Houston, we stand with Wilson and Valbrun. We want all women to know their fibroid treatment options. 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 

Can I get Pregnant After UFE?

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is an effective, minimally invasive fibroid treatment. For years, we didn’t know how UFE affects fertility. Women who wanted kids had myomectomies (surgical removal of fibroids.) Now, thanks to several studies, we’re learning more about fertility after UFE. And how many women get pregnant after UFE, both of which may just be changing that school of though. Woman holding a pregnancy test

Fertility After UFE

In one French study, researchers followed 15 women, all about 35 years old and with no apparent fertility problems. All of the women treated their fibroids with UFE. Typically, UFE eliminates fibroids by injecting an embolizing substance into all the blood vessels and arteries surrounding a tumor. For this study, doctors changed things up. They embolized the vessels that directly gave blood to fibroids, but left other nearby arteries untouched, allowing blood to flow into the unaffected uterine tissue. The procedure, called a limited embolization approach, was supposed to spare the women’s fertility while also relieving their fibroid symptoms.

Nine of the women were actively trying to get pregnant at the time of treatment. Within a year, five had babies.  Three and a half years after the modified UFE, eight of the women had given birth to 10 babies! Those are numbers that we love to see.

And that’s not all the good news. The women reported a 66% reduction in their fibroid symptoms, and an incredible 112% improvement in their overall quality of life. Only five women still experienced symptoms, seeking follow up treatments.

Can I Get Pregnant After UFE?

If you dream of having a family, you want to be sure UFE won’t end that dream. Which is why you’ll probably want more than one studying confirming its safety. Luckily, new evidence emerges every day that you can get pregnant after UFE.

Recently, a study from India reviewed women’s health history between January 2012-2018. Specifically, they followed 28 women between the age of 22 and 35. Each of these women had UFE treatment for one of several conditions.

After their procedures, 86% of the women had at least one successful pregnancy. And 21% of the women had two successful pregnancies after UFE, just within that short time period.

And the news gets better. Of those successful pregnancies, 62% of the women had vaginal deliveries. Just 38% of the women delivered their babies via caesarean section. A statistic that’s fairly close to the national average: according to the Centers for Disease Control, 31.9% of U.S. births each year are via c-section.

While the study size is limited, these results are great news for women who want to get pregnant, and want to avoid fibroid surgery. And, as research continues, we believe more studies will provide similar evidence.

Choosing Your Fibroid Treatment Options

In the first study we explored, the fibroid treatments were altered. But in our second study, the women received a typical UFE procedure. And that’s an important distinction. Why?

Because, with unlimited UFE, the full procedure impacts blood flow to your uterus, it may impact your chances of getting pregnant. So, some women still may choose limited embolization UFE. But, as more studies on getting pregnant after UFE, without limits, emerge, we hope your fibroid treatment options will expand. Without sacrificing your dreams of starting or expanding your family.

In the mean time, we promise to keep you updated on all the latest research. So, for more information on UFE, and to see if the procedure can work for you, schedule a consultation with one of our Houston area fibroid specialists. Relief may be available without hospital stays–all without giving up on your dream of having a family!

 

Sources: Europeanradiology.org, Interventional News, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

3 Ways Fibroids Can Impact Pregnancy

If you have fibroids, you may worry about future pregnancy. Uterine fibroids, aren’t usually cancerous, which is good news. But they grow in your womb, and they’re very common during your reproductive years. Fibroids develop as single tumors or as multiple growths. Depending on the type, size, and number of fibroids you have, they could affect your pregnancy.

Continue reading “3 Ways Fibroids Can Impact Pregnancy”

Sonata vs UFE: Which Should I Choose?

If you want to treat uterine fibroids without surgery, you have two options Sonata vs UFE (uterine fibroid embolization). Today, choosing UFE, uterine fibroid embolization, is not that unusual. This has been a proven alternative to hysterectomy since 1994, almost 10 years before Condoleeza Rice chose this fibroid treatment option. At that time, UFE was a relatively new fibroid treatment method. Nonetheless, Ms. Rice chose this minimally-invasive procedure—and publicized her decision to help other women understand their options.

Today, Sonata is the new minimally invasive fibroid treatment. But, unlike UFE, this option can’t address all fibroids. That’s why our Houston area fibroid specialists are sticking with UFE. And helping you understand the differences between Sonata vs UFE.

 

Sonata vs UFE: Avoiding Fibroid Surgery

Back in 2004, 30% of hysterectomies in the U.S. were performed on women with fibroids. And, at that same time, only 13,000 women each year opted for fibroid embolization—after all, it was first performed by French doctors in 1995, so it was relatively new less than a decade later.

Even so, Ms. Rice made a bold choice and, after just a one night hospital stay, was able to successfully treat her fibroids with UFE. The procedure itself lasted just an hour and a half. She was treated on a Friday and back to work on Monday.

Now, hearing that a somewhat-new fibroid treatment worked well may tempt you to try Sonata. But, before you head in that direction, let’s check out the difference between the two minimally invasive fibroid treatments.

What is UFE?

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) cuts off blood supply to the tumor, slowing their growth and ultimately shrinking the fibroid. As a result, with UFE, you can target large and small tumors. Plus, we can treat your fibroids regardless of their location. And we can treat them all at once, instead of putting you through multiple procedures. Finally, UFE can also provide relief from adenomyosis, a painful condition that can be hard to diagnose and treat.

But wait, there’s more good news! In our Houston fibroids practice, we now use trans-radial access for UFE, which means we treat your fibroids through the radial artery in your left wrist. Unlike the early days, when Ms. Rice had UFE and the femoral artery provided treatment access, our method has fewer complications and is less painful.  It also means that our patients can sit up and walk right after the procedure, leading to quicker recovery times. In other words, this is a tried-and-true fibroid treatment that provides a safe and effective alternative to fibroid surgery. Now let’s explore the alternative.

What is Sonata?

The Sonata Treatment is an incision-free option for treating uterine fibroids. Like UFE, Sonata uses ultrasound-guided treatment. But, unlike UFE, Sonata targets individual fibroids with radiofrequency. This does not cut off blood flow to the area, so the tumors have to be treated individually. And that’s a major problem, since most women with fibroids have 10-15 growths. Meaning Sonata would take too long to treat all your fibroids, and is thus not a viable option.

Plus, because of the delivery method, Sonata is most effective for small fibroids, but may not work well for larger fibroids. Also, when you use Sonata, doctors have to leave a rim of fibroid intact—so you’re never 100% free of fibroids. That’s why many patients come to our office, asking for UFE, when their fibroid symptoms don’t improve after Sonata treatment.

Still, like UFE, Sonata is minimally invasive. So, if you choose this option, you can return to normal activities the next day. And, when used for small fibroids, results showed that most women were satisfied with their results. And did not need repeat interventions one year following their procedure. In the longer term, however, the results don’t look great. In fact, over 50% of women who choose sonata vs UFE have a recurrence at the five year mark. Meaning more symptoms, more pain, and a return to the treatment table. 

Choosing Sonata vs UFE

Back in 2004, UFE was a cutting-edge procedure for Condoleeza Rice—but it spent the next 16 years just getting better. In contrast, Sonata is today’s new fibroid treatment option. Yet, unlike UFE, this option has limits on its effectiveness. Now, it may get better as time progresses. And specialists hone their treatment approaches. But, today, our fibroid specialists are aware of Sonata’s limitations. Which is why, when you’re choosing between Sonata vs UFE, we recommend sticking with the treatment with a proven track record. And we invite you to schedule a consultation in our office, to see if you’re a good candidate for UFE!

The Surprising Thyroid Fibroid Connection

What’s the thyroid fibroid connection? Well, we know that many women develop fibroids—non-cancerous uterine tumors. And we know that even more women of color live with fibroids. In fact, black women are three times more likely than white women to develop fibroids. Plus, those fibroids tend to be larger and cause more disruptive symptoms. But we don’t know why some women get fibroids and some women don’t.

For years, researchers have tried to pinpoint an answer. They’ve discovered that hormones play a role in your fibroid risk. As does exposure to certain chemicals, which is many people believe black women’s hair products might play a role in their fibroid risk. Stress and family history can also raise your fibroid risk.

All of these ideas offer helpful information. Because, the more you know about potential fibroid risks, the better you may be able to prevent their growth. Which is why, today, we’re discussing one new theory about fibroids: a possible thyroid-fibroid connection.

Studying the Thyroid and Fibroids thyroid fibroid connection in women

In a new study in the Endocrine Journal, researchers noticed a connection between thyroid nodules and fibroids, in pre-menopausal women. (Thyroid nodules are fluid-filled lumps that form at the base of your thyroid. Most aren’t cancerous. But a few will be, so you should always see a doctor for nodules.) In other words, women with thyroid nodules were very likely to have fibroids.

They found this thyroid fibroid connection by looking at electronic medical records for women aged 24 to 51. Each of these women had check-ups between 2017 and 2018 at a hospital in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China. During that checkup, they also had lab testing, thyroid ultrasounds, and transvaginal pelvic ultrasounds.

What they found was telling. Among the women studied, 432 had uterine fibroids. And 421 were fibroid free. In the group of women with fibroids, 65% also had thyroid nodules. But among women without fibroids, only 52% had thyroid nodules. Which means that women with fibroids are more likely to have thyroid nodules.

And the opposite also seemed true. Women with thyroid nodules were more likely to have multiple fibroids. But there was no difference in fibroid size for women with nodules compared to women without them.

Pursuing the Thyroid Fibroid Connection

The results of this study are interesting. But, once again, they just give us a hint about your fibroid risk. Without offering one clear reason why women develop fibroids. Even study authors recognized the limitations on their findings.

These included missing data about the women’s estrogen, antithyroglobulin, and antithyroperoxidase levels. And that’s a big deal, since we know there is a connection between your hormones and your fibroid risk.

Still, the study does suggest that thyroid nodules may be associated with uterine fibroids. Moving forward, researchers will keep exploring this thyroid fibroid connection. Because it can also teach us more about your future risk for fibroid cancer.

Now, even while we wait for answers, you don’t have to wait for relief from fibroid symptoms. At our Houston area fibroid office, we offer minimally invasive fibroid treatment. So you can get rid of painful symptoms without the risk of surgery. Want to learn if you’re a good candidate for this alternative to myomectomy? Schedule a consultation at our office. We’ll help you review all your fibroid treatment options.

Sources: Endocrinology Advisor

3 Surprising Hysterectomy Side Effects

Hysterectomy causes major side effects, and they aren’t just menopause and infertility. Now, many women with fibroids think they need a hysterectomy—a surgical removal of the uterus. And some are told it’s the only way to relieve fibroid symptoms. But there are less invasive treatments available, like uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). This is a problem because, no matter what the reason, women who undergo hysterectomies face major surgery complications. And now, studies show that hysterectomy side effects may include mental and physical health struggles. We’ve already explored how hysterectomy side effects damage your heart health. So, today, we’ll explore this surgery impacts your memory and your anxiety levels.

How a Hysterectomy can Hurt Your Mental Health

Women’s risk for anxiety and depression increase after  hysterectomy, according to a study in the journal Menopause.

To reach this conclusion, researchers reviewed the medical records of 2,094 hysterectomy patients. For this study, none of those women had cancer. Next, they compared the records to those of same-aged women who hadn’t had a hysterectomy. And then they followed both groups for 22 years.

As it turns out, woman’s risk for depression relatively increased by 26 percent with hysterectomy. And the risk for anxiety increased by 22 percent after hysterectomy. Researchers discovered that age matters, too. In young women, who had a hysterectomy before 35, there was a 47 percent increased risk for depression. Also, the anxiety risk increased by 45 percent. Outside of cancer, the reason for the hysterectomy didn’t seem to impact the increased risk of mental health issues.

Female with Fibroids

According to lead study author, Dr. Shannon K. Laughlin-Tommaso, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Mayo Clinic, “Hysterectomy is right for some women. But there is this 4 to 6 percent of women who will be affected by depression or anxiety. We’re hoping women will talk with their doctors and see if there’s any alternative they could use instead.”

Uterine Surgery May Interfere with Memory

Depression isn’t the only way hysterectomy may affect your brain function. According to a pre-human trial from Arizona State University, a hysterectomy could impact your memory. Now, if that sounds strange, it is. But here’s what we know: your ovaries and brain are connected.  So your estrogen and progesterone levels impact your memory. But we now know that your uterus is tied to your autonomic nervous system. Which means that losing your uterus could affect your cognitive ability.

In order to illustrate this fact, Dr. Heather Bimonte-Nelson studied rats before and after a hysterectomy. Allowing for 6 weeks of recovery time, the study tested their post-hysterectomy working memory. And here’s the bad news: after hysterectomy, rats couldn’t navigate a maze they used to complete. In comparison, rats who kept their uterus had no problem finishing the maze. In other words, losing their uterus directly impacted rat memory. Clearly, this study has troubling implications for human females.

 

UFE: The non-surgical fibroid treatment option

Thankfully, many women with fibroids can find a non-surgical alternative to hysterectomy in our Houston-area practice. Using imagine, catheters and an injection, we are able to cut off blood flow to your fibroids, which makes them shrink and, eventually, disappear. It’s a minimally invasive procedure, usually not involving a hospital stay.

If you have fibroids and are concerned about having a hysterectomy, reach out to our doctors. We can help you determine if UFE is the right treatment option for you.

Sources: Menopause, The New York Times, Journal of Endocrinology

Struggling with Infertility? This Could be the Problem

Infertility is a major concern if you have non-cancerous uterine tumors. After all, your fertility is an important health marker, even if you don’t want a child right now.  But fibroids aren’t the only cause of infertility. So, regardless of your family plan, it’s important to understand what’s causing your infertility. And, to help you investigate, here are some of the top culprits to explore if you’re dealing with infertility:

1. Infertility and Fallopian Tube Issues pain from uterine fibroids

When functioning properly, your fallopian tubes act as a highway for your eggs. During ovulation, eggs travel down the tubes; if an egg meets sperm at the end of its journey, it can become a fertilized embryo. If, however, your fallopian tubes become blocked or damaged, sperm can’t meet your eggs. And even if the sperm and egg do connect, the fertilized embryo will have a harder time travelling to your uterus for implantation.  While many things can cause damage to your fallopian tubes, PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) and STIs or STDs are often responsible.

2. Endometriosis Impacts Fertility

Endometriosis is a painful condition in which endometrium, the tissue that’s normally found in the lining of your uterus grows outside the uterus. Often, this misplaced tissue develops in your ovaries or fallopian tubes. Endometriosis can be painful. It affects your menstrual cycle and, often, your ability to conceive.

3. PCOS

PCOS, or Polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a hormonal disorder that causes your ovaries to become enlarged and covered in cysts at their edges. Another characteristic of this condition is that women produce more male hormones than is typical. Approximately 10% of women are affected by PCOS. Symptoms include irregular menstrual cycles, obesity, excess hair growth, higher risks of diabetes and acne.

 4. Uterine Fibroids and Infertility

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in or on your uterus. Fibroids can develop inside your uterus, on its lining, inside its wall or even on the outer surface of your uterus. Fibroids can affect your menstrual cycle, your ability to conceive and your ability to carry a successful pregnancy to term.

Secondary infertility is often tied to fibroids. (This means you’ve had one baby, but are struggling to become pregnant again) Why? If you develop new fibroids after your first pregnancy, you may not conceive. The same could be true if an old fibroid got bigger after your first baby. If that’s your situation, discuss a fibroid exam with your doctor. We are also happy to offer remote fibroid consultations at this time.

5. Thyroid conditions

Thyroid hormones regulate, among other things, fertility and pregnancy in as much as they are a major part of human growth and development. Hypothyroidism, a condition in which your thyroid hormone levels are low, can stop your ovaries from releasing eggs for fertilization.

6. Egg problems

Every woman has a different number and quality of eggs that may be produced by her ovaries. Some women have fairly low egg counts. Other women have plenty of eggs, but the ones she has are not up to the task of creating a baby.  Egg count and quality decrease with age, so women with advanced maternal age may be inclined to check their egg quality when grappling with infertility.

7. Uterine Polyps and Infertility

Polyps are uterine growths, but they are different than fibroids. (Learn the difference between polyps and fibroids here.)  Still, like fibroids, polyps can lead to infertility. That’s because they have a stalk that attaches to the membrane lining your uterus and/or cervix.

Unfortunately, many different causes of infertility manifest with the same symptom—irregular or heavy menstrual cycles. In many cases, you can only pinpoint the cause of your infertility by ruling out all other possibilities. If you are concerned that fibroids may be the cause of your infertility issues, schedule a consultation with Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee in our Houston area fibroid clinic today.

Sources: New York Times, Rising Sun Chatsworth

Irregular Periods Now Linked to Early Death

Many women with fibroids experience heavy, long periods. They may also have irregular menstrual cycles. While unpleasant, new evidence suggests that these long periods could also be deadly. In fact, women with irregular or long period cycles were more likely to die before they turned 70. They also had a higher risk of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease, especially if they experienced longer cycles.

The Health Risk of Irregular Periods irregular and long periods impact your health

To reach their conclusions, studies explored life cycles of women with typical menstrual cycles (between 26 and 31 days.) Then, they compared the findings to women whose menstrual cycles lasted more than 40 days.

We already know that, in the short term, a long period can lead to anemia. Having irregular periods increased your risk for certain diseases and earlier death. And the risk increased dramatically if your cycles were irregular or long during your teen and adult years.

In addition to serious health risks, an irregular cycle also increased your odds of having a higher body mass index (BMI), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excessive hair growth, endometriosis and growths in your uterus.gular

The exact reason for your increased risk of death wasn’t clear. But authors believe it may have something to with the disruption to your hormones.

Menstrual Cycle Study Details

The study, which started in 1993, involved 79,505 pre-menopausal women. None of them had a prior history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes. Over the course of the study, they reported how long and regular their periods were at the ages of 14 to 17 years old, 18 to 22, and 29 to 46.

After 24 years, the team followed up with the women. They examined medical records, autopsy reports or death certificates. And what did they find? 1,975 of the women died before turning 70. Of those deaths, 894 were from cancer, and 172 from cardiovascular disease. Women with irregular or long period cycles were more likely to be among the deceased.

PCOS and Irregular Periods

But there’s more. Irregular periods weren’t the only risk for early death. So was your contraceptive use! In fact, study authors discovered that women who used contraceptive for more than 14 years were also in trouble. They believe this was related to younger women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Many PCOS sufferers start birth control in their teens to control symptoms. So this increased risk could also be tied to PCOS, another condition that leads to irregular periods.

Of course, the study authors note that PCOS is also linked to obesity. And PCOS can also cause insulin resistance and hypertension. Both of which could also affect your risk for early death.

Still, the research was pretty clear on one factor. Irregular periods, whatever their cause, are associated with premature death. And the most common cause of that early death is cardiovascular disease. Which should be cause for concern if you’re living with fibroids and irregular periods.

Of course, this study has limitations. But the authors hope will make women pay attention to their cycles because of these findings. After all, periods are “vital signs” of your overall health. In other words, problems with your period may be a sign of more serious problems. Whether that’s have fibroids, PCOS or another condition, it’s important to discuss your cycle with your doctor. And if you discover that fibroids cause your irregular periods? Schedule an appointment with our Houston fibroids experts to learn your treatment options.

Sources: MDEdge Endocrinology, The BMJ

Why Black Women Get Fibroids

Black women get fibroids more than any other women on the planet. And, did you know that African American women have some of the worst fibroid experiences? These are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around your uterus.

Fibroids are composed of muscle tissue. You can develop one or many fibroids. They may be small or large. And, while some women don’t even know they have fibroids, others experience symptoms that significantly interfere with their lives. These include heavy periods, pelvic pain,  frequent urination and/or constipation, and pain during sex.

Why Do Black Women get Fibroids More Often?

We still don’t know why some women develop fibroids, while others don’t. But we do know that Black and African women develop fibroids three times more often than white women. And those fibroids are likely to be large and symptomatic.

Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project, is one of those women. She was 23 when she received a fibroid diagnosis, but she’d already had years of pain. Today, at 42, she continues to fight for fibroid awareness. She wants the world to take this health challenge seriously, pointing out that the WHO (World Health Organization) doesn’t even share fibroid information on its website.

This is a shocking discrepancy, since the site offers extensive information on other conditions affecting women, including infertility.

Valbrun recently told CNN, “I just don’t understand it, like, if so many Black women have fibroids, why aren’t more people talking about it? Why aren’t there so many walks and campaigns like there are for other medical conditions?” she said.

Additional Challenges

Lack of awareness is a problem for many black women who get fibroids. But so is the period stigma that’s still prevalent in many African cultures.

That’s something Ghanain Nana Konamah is working to change. In 2019, she and friend Jessica Nabongo made a documentary to help women understand how fibroids can impact so many aspects of women’s lives. At the same time, she’s trying to eliminate period stigma so that women speak up about symptoms and get diagnosed.

Early diagnosis is crucial. And it’s equally important to understand your fibroid treatment options! Because, according to the most recent CDC data, 33 percent of Black women ages 48-50 had a hysterectomy. In contrast, only 3 percent of white women in that age group removed their uterus. And when it comes to younger women? The gaps are even more startling.  Among women ages 33-45, 12 percent of Black women had a hysterectomy. And white women? Only 4 percent in that age group chose this invasive surgery. That’s a major problem. We need to do better and help spread more fibroid knowledge, so all women know their fibroid treatment options.

Increased Risk and Delayed Treatment

Uterine-Fibroid-Treatment-for-African-American-Women in Houston We don’t know the exact scientific evidence reason why African American women are more likely to develop uterine fibroids. Still, there are a number of theories.

First, because African American girls are more likely to start their period at a younger age, one such theory is that fact makes them more susceptible to fibroid development later in life. It could also explain why black women develop fibroids at a younger age than women of other races. Daughters are also three times as likely to have fibroids if their mother experienced them, which just completes this vicious circle.

Recently, the Black Women’s Health Study offered another theory. One interesting new idea was that black women’s increased fibroid risk was linked to childhood trauma. Something that is devastating for us to learn.

And here’s the worse news. More African American women have fibroids, and severe fibroid symptoms, they don’t get help quickly. In fact, studies show that  African American women reported taking an average of four years to seek fibroid treatment

How to Treat Uterine Fibroids

Unfortunately, African American women are not only three times more likely to develop uterine fibroids but they are also more likely to have larger and more densely populated fibroid tumors, so the treatment options can be different. While African American women diagnosed with fibroids are twice as likely to have a hysterectomy as Caucasian women, it’s important that those diagnosed with uterine fibroids are given comprehensive treatment options.

  • Non-invasive: include watchful waiting if you don’t experience symptoms, hormone treatments that may treat some symptoms, or an ultrasound procedure.
  • Less invasive: include uterine fibroid embolization, or endometrial ablation, which removes the lining of the uterine.
  • Surgical: include a myomectomy in which the fibroids are surgically removed, or a hysterectomy where the entire uterus is removed. The more invasive a surgery, the more room there is for complications.

Talk to your gynecologist and our fibroid specialists about the symptoms you’re experiencing to help decide on your best approach to treatment.

Sources: CNN, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Black Women’s Health Imperatives, Black Women’s Health Study, CDC, Well + Good

You Don’t Have to Be Living with Fibroids

So many women in this country are living with fibroids. These uterine tumors are the most common kind in the U.S. Typically, they aren’t cancerous. But they can cause symptoms such as heavy periods. And pelvic pain, which often travels to your lower back, hips and legs. If you have fibroids, you may have to urinate more often (frequency.) You could even face constipation.

Now, we do know how to treat fibroids. Yet many doctors tell their patients to just watch these tumors. Waiting for them to grow and cause problem. For women living with fibroids, that’s a big deal. Because waiting for fibroids to grow limits your treatment options. And, as Houston fibroid specialists, we want women to avoid fibroid surgery. But that is often only possible if you seek early treatment.

The Danger of Living with Fibroids

Unfortunately, living with fibroids takes short-and-long term tolls on your health. Especially for women of color—up to 80% of black women have fibroids. And their lives are disrupted.

Consider the impact of living with fibroids. How can you go to work with a heavy period? When you constantly worry about leaking onto your clothes or furniture? After all, you could pass a clot at any moment. Which means a day at work requires serious protective gear. You may double up on pads and tampons. If your periods are really heavy, you might even need an adult diaper to feel safe leaving your house.

And don’t forget. Heavy periods aren’t just embarrassing. That monthly blood loss can leave you fatigued. Or even trigger anemia. But, in the face of all these challenges, women keep pushing through. Whether it’s fear of losing your job. Or you’re simply too embarrassed to talk about “women’s issues,” you keep to your routines. Even while fibroids make it difficult to do so.

Delayed Fibroid Treatment Female with Fibroids

Sometimes, this challenging routine lasts for years. In fact, a 2013 study in the Journal of Women’s Health revealed that most women wait 3 ½ years before treating fibroids. Even scarier? Twenty-five percent of the women waited 5 years—or longer—before treating their fibroids.  At that point, many women faced limited treatment options. Because their fibroids were large.

Now, here’s where the news gets worse. These are the main reasons study participants delayed treatment.

1.       They didn’t want surgery

2.       They wanted to keep their uterus

3.       They never knew about alternatives to fibroid surgery

Then, by the time they went for treatment, surgery was the only safe option for too many women.

Minimally Invasive Fibroid Treatment

The saddest part of these findings is that you can treat fibroids without surgery. In fact, many women living with fibroids find relief from an outpatient, non-surgical treatment known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE.) While it’s been around for 25 years, there’s still too many women who don’t know about this option.

Unlike surgery, UFE typically lasts less than one hour. You procedure begins with a tiny incision in your femoral artery. This allows your doctor to pass a catheter to your uterine artery, so we can get near your fibroid tumor. Then, we can deposit embolic material (small spheres) that stop blood flow to your fibroids. So they shrink and stop causing symptoms.

Right after the procedure, you may get cramps, and your doctor will help keep you comfortable. You typically can return to light activity a few days after your procedure. And, unlike a hysterectomy, many women can still have children after UFE. Although some women prefer a myomectomy if they still plan to have children.

Regardless of your choice, it’s important to know you have options. Want to learn more? Schedule an appointment with our specialists to see if you’re a good candidate for UFE. Because living with fibroids often means pain. And you don’t have to live like that if you don’t want to.

Sources: Journal of Women’s Health

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