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 supplys 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.
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.
Closing the Fibroid Information Gap
Despite all these obvious 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!
When you’re living with fibroids, your painful cycle means you may plan around your period. That’s because those periods may be long and heavy. And really, really painful. In fact, periods can be so disruptive when you have fibroids that you might have no choice about planning your life around your monthly cycle.
Many women already do that, but for the wrong reasons. According to a Dutch study, periods make almost 14 percent of surveyed women miss work or school. And 80% of the women who show up on their period reported losing productivity because of the pain.
What did those painful periods amount to? Women lose about nine days a year because of their cycles, according to the study authors. Even worse? There’s a lot of shame about these symptoms. In this study, only 20 percent of women were able to tell their bosses or teachers that period pain was to blame for their sick days.
Now, our Houston fibroid specialists provide minimally invasive treatments so you don’t have to live your life around your period. But we did want to share one woman’s theories about planning your activities around your period, so you can see what that looks like. Check out what she had to say.
Should You Plan around your Period?
Recently, Mayella Almazan, a menstrual health educator in Northern Ireland, told the Daily Mail why women should plan around their periods. Her theory is that, if you really understand your monthly cycle and plan around it, you can reach your full potential.
And she divides each month into four distinct phases: menstruation, pre-ovulation, ovulation and pre-menstruation. Depending on the length of your cycle, she says, each phase should last between three and seven days. Of course, if fibroids have made your period longer, this would affect the length of each of these ‘phases.’
Still, it’s not the length of each phase that’s important, according to Almazan. What really matters, she says, is what you’re up for in each phase of the month. As Almazan explains, “So many women don’t understand their bodies and it’s such a shame. Most of us expect to feel tired or fragile on our periods, and we know about PMS, but that’s where it ends. Instead of seeing our periods as a barrier to our success, I’d love to see more women feeling empowered to use their monthly fluctuations to their advantage.”
Apparently, Almazan practices what she preaches. She says, “I organize my life around my menstrual cycle and it really works. I know when to take on a new project and push myself, and when to give myself a break…create a monthly chart and pin it to the wall. That way everyone [will know] what to expect!’
Almazan’s Four Distinct Menstrual Phases
These are the four distinct phases of your monthly cycle, as Almazan sees them:
DAYS 1-7: MENSTRUATION
Your cycle starts on the first day of your period, and typically lasts around seven days. During this time, your estrogen and progesterone levels are low. During this time, many women have cramps, back aches, headaches or even nausea. Sometimes, your energy levels drop during your period. And for women with fibroids, these symptoms are likely to be worse.
During this phase, Almazan says: “Day one or two of your period will be your lowest physically energetic days of the month, so give yourself a break and don’t feel guilty… You need lots of rest and self-care. But it can be active rest; it’s a great time for quiet reflection. You could bring those reports home from work to read, do some brainstorming and prepare for the month ahead so that when you enter the next phase, which is very productive, you’re all set to make the most of it. It could also be an opportunity to enjoy quality downtime with your family; snuggled up on the sofa reading or watching movies with your partner and kids. Go easy on yourself wherever possible.”
DAYS 7-14: PRE-OVULATION
During this phase, you’ve finished your period; your estrogen and testosterone levels are rising as your body prepares to release an egg. During this phase, many women feel a burst of energy.
That’s why, Almazan suggests, “This is the time of the month to go for it! If you’re an athlete, you will be at your peak…It’s certainly the time to begin or step up a training regime though. The number one issue women who come to me complaining of is exhaustion, so I tell them to make the most of this pre-ovulation time. If you can control your diary, this is the time to schedule your busiest or most demanding days. Your mental focus and analytical skills will be strong. It’s also the time you’ll be feeling most capable; so tackle things you find difficult now.”
DAYS 14-21: OVULATION
When you release your egg (ovulate) your discharge may look different and you may have pain in your side. Your estrogen and testosterone levels will reach their peak. Your Luteinizing Hormone (LH) will suddenly surge, triggering ovulation. And, immediately afterwards, your estrogen starts dropping as your progesterone rises. Your energy may wane again, and you may experience breakouts and breast tenderness.
Almazan says, “This is the time to do teambuilding or networking exercises at work, hold mentoring sessions or take a more listening, supportive role. ‘You may find you have a softer, warmer approach during this time, so it could be a great opportunity to try to solve problems and solve conflicts. It’s also a great time to socialize and cook for friends. If you have a partner, schedule a date night or two. If you’re single, socialize and strengthen your connections with friends.”
DAYS 21-28: PRE-MENSTRUAL
During this phase, your progesterone levels hit their highest point before dropping. Your estrogen will briefly rise, then drop again. It is this hormonal imbalance that can cause premenstrual symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, bloating, depression and mood swings.
Says Almazan: ‘We all know the negatives associated with PMS, but don’t write off this time completely. As your body prepares to shed the uterus lining, you may also find your observation skills are heightened and perceptions are more acute. ‘You can utilize these skills at work; now might be a great time to tackle the reading of a tricky report or something that requires discerning skills. Or at home you could make a list of things you would like to throw out or change. If you find yourself getting emotional, angry or frustrated, don’t dismiss these feelings. Pay attention to your thoughts and write down things that are upsetting you. Once you’re feeling calmer these journals can offer real insight. Some of your thoughts and feelings may have been overreactions, but others could be really useful, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You can use your down time during your period to take stock of any issues thrown up during this pre-menstrual period and think of ways to tackle them. Then you’re ready to begin the cycle again.”
While this is an interesting approach to your typical menstrual cycle, there’s one thing you shouldn’t have to do: stay home during your period because you’re in too much pain to go out. If that’s what planning around your period looks like for you, it’s time to consider treating your 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.
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
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. Daughters are also three times as likely to have fibroids if their mother experienced them, which just completes this vicious circle.
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.
Ugh, those heavy periods: someone else’s problem, right? Well, if you’re staying closer to home right now because of the COVID-19 uptick, chances are you’re paying more attention to your body. And, if that’s the case, you may have suddenly noticed: your period’s pretty heavy!
There’s lots of reasons your period gets heavy (and we’ll go through them shortly. It’s important to know your why, so you can determine if you need to seek medical care.) But first, let’s talk about what it means to have a ‘heavy’ period.
How Can I Tell if Heavy Periods are a Problem?
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!)
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
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!
Black women and fibroids just seem to go together. About 80% of all women develop fibroids by the time they hit their 50s. But the rate of fibroid development is much higher among black women. Which is why many women impacted by these benign tumors are taking steps to raise fibroid awareness. And to help other black women gain the information needed to receive high-quality fibroid care, that doesn’t always involve a hysterectomy. Today, we salute two of those women as our Women Crushes of the Week.
For Black Women and Fibroids: the Fibroid Pandemic
When LaToya. Dwight was diagnosed with fibroids, her doctors offered a hysterectomy. But, as she explained in a recent interview, “I did not know what fibroids were, and was not given any resources… That did not sit well with me and made me do my research.”
Thankfully, that research led her to lifestyle changes, and a less invasive treatment option. Following her decision, she said, “I realized that a lot of women do not know where to turn because they are typically given the recommendation of having a hysterectomy. And while there is nothing wrong with having one, statistically, 60% of hysterectomies are not needed.” To help fill that information gap, she started the Fibroid Pandemic platform.
Among other resources, Dwight shares information that will help Black women address fibroid symptoms holistically. Specifically, she helps target factors that may be responsible for Black women’s increased fibroid risks. One key lifestyle change she advocates? Changing cosmetics brands. Especially hair care products, since many products marketed for black hair care contain strong chemicals that have been linked to increased fibroid risk. This is very important information, as are the tips our next #WCW shares through her platforms.
Meet The Black Woman “Fibroid Queen”
Registered nurse and fitness trainer Phyllis Frempong expressed concern about Black women’s healthcare equality: “Black women are last when learning the information needed to maximize our options. In the medical system, it has been this way for a long time. It has been set up for us to be at a disadvantage; therefore, we are required to educate and empower ourselves to stay abreast of what is going on.”
She uses her Instagram platform to advocate fibroid fighting fitness routines. As we know, maintaining a healthy weight can help minimize fibroid symptoms and growth, likely because carrying extra pounds can mess with your hormones.
Still, Ms. Frempong knows that talking fibroids isn’t easy. She says, “I grew up in an African household, so talking about medical issues was not encouraged. I remember my mom coming home really drained and tired, and asking her what happened. After initially dismissing me, she later said that her doctor informed her that she would need to get her uterus taken out. I asked why and she said that was fibroids. I did not quite know what fibroids were, I just remembered the name. So, years later, while in nursing school, I asked the doctor for an ultrasound and was questioned. When in a situation like this, always go with your instincts. Something told me to request it, and after finding a quarter-sized fibroid on my uterus, I was told to just monitor it.”
The Growth Cycle Continues
She did just that, but she developed more fibroids, like so many black women with fibroids. And they grew large. Frempong says she felt like a failure, because she’d waited around for things to get worse. All without knowing steps that could help stop her fibroids’ progression.
Today, she’s protecting other women from the same experience. She says, “I used what I learned as a nurse and fitness coach and created a lifestyle regiment to not only reduce my symptoms but shrink my fibroids. I realized that if I could do that, then I could help others. So now, my mission is to help millions of women end their suffering with holistic resources and a community of like-minded women to live their lives beyond fibroids.”
Minimally Invasive Fibroid Treatment
In our Houston area fibroid practice, we also work hard to share information about treatment options. We want women to know that hysterectomy isn’t always the answer. That’s part of why we share women’s fibroid stories. And it’s why we always offer patient education regarding Uterine Fibroid Embolization, or UFE, a non-surgical fibroid treatment.
We also know that UFE isn’t for everyone. And that’s ok. Our only goal is to make sure all women know that they have choices. So, if you want to explore minimally invasive fibroid treatments, we are here to help. Check out our guidelines to see if you’re a UFE candidate. And feel free to schedule an in-office or Telemedicine consultation with our team of specialists.
When you have uterine fibroids, it’s important to explore all your treatment options. Many women with fibroids think they need a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus,) But many could 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 about which of the two less invasive treatment options would be their best choice. Now, new research is giving women two important reasons to choose UFE.
Types of Fibroid Surgery
Before we talk about UFE vs myomectomy, let’s talk about the different types of fibroid removal surgery. If you choose to have your tumors surgically removed, you’ll have two choices: open abdominal surgery or laparoscopic surgery. With the first option, your surgeon opens up your lower abdomen with an incision large enough to remove your fibroids. This is obviously an invasive procedure that will come with an extended recovery period.
On the other hand, with laparoscopic fibroid surgery, your fibroids are removed through a series of several smaller incisions. The procedure is less invasive, with a faster recovery period. But you’ll still need to undergo sedation before the procedure.
Still, both of these procedures do help relieve fibroid symptoms. In a recent study in the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, researchers followed 143 women with fibroids for three years. 52 had open-abdominal procedures, 28 went with the laparoscopic procedure. Typically, the women choosing open-abdominal surgery started off with larger and more numerous fibroid clusters. Now, what the researchers discovered was very interesting: despite the differences in recovery periods, women in both groups reported similar improvements in quality of life and symptom relief. Yet, they still had to struggle with the challenges of surgery. Which is why many women still look for alternative fibroid treatments.
3 Main Advantages of Uterine Fibroid Embolization
If you’re looking for an alternative to fibroid surgery, here is some helpful research you’ll want to review.
According to research conducted by Dr. Jemianne Bautista-Jia, UFE may be more effective than myomectomy at relieving fibroid symptoms. Specifically, the study discovered three advantages to this method, as compared to surgical options.
With UFE, women were less likely to need secondary procedures than women who had myomectomy. That means if you choose UFE, you’ve got higher odds of finding lasting relief.
Women were less likely to need a blood transfusion after UFE than following surgery. Not only will this help you return faster to your daily activities, but it will also protect you from potential issues that may arise from this somewhat-risky blood transfer.
Women whose fibroids caused heavy menstrual bleeding experienced better relief with UFE than with myomectomy. And there’s nothing we don’t love about that news: say goodbye to back-up menstrual protection. And hello to the gorgeous white dress you’ve been eyeing for months!
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.
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.
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
Blueberries, plums, apples, cherries and other flavonoid-packed fruit
Broccoli, lettuce, spinach and other green veggies
Lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus fruits
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
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. Which, in turn, 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.
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.
July is National Fibroid Awareness month, and that’s something we’re very serious about. So, today, we honor Tamika Gray Valburn, founder of The White Dress Project. For years, Tanika suffered with fibroids. Her mom lost two sets of twins because of her own fibroids. But even with the family history, Tamika didn’t make the connection to her own diagnosis!
In fact, Valburn’s fibroids were diagnosed in her late teens. At that point, she’d experienced years of painful symptoms. “You just think it will skip a generation,” she’s explained in interviews. “When you’re young, you’re not thinking it will be your story as well.” But, like so many women, Valburn discovered that fibroids do tend to run in families.
Living with Fibroid Symptoms
Because Valburn’s fibroids triggered heavy periods, she “learn[ed] how to pad myself [to keep from leaking through clothes.] I know the whole formula—what kind of underwear to wear, what kind of tights, what kind of Spanx. I’ve tried and tested everything. It’s become a way of life.”
Eventually, Tanika surgically removed 27 fibroids from her uterus. After her recovery, she wanted to help other women. So, in 2014, Tanika earned a Georgia state representative’s support in declaring July as Fibroid Awareness Month. The goal? Helping women get the crucial health information they need.
But she didn’t stop there. Tanika realized that she never bought white clothing. She said, “It’s a simple thing. Like, who cares, why not just wear black? But I love clothes, and the fact that I had to sacrifice wearing white for these benign tumors—I wasn’t feeling it.”
The White Dress Project
That same year, Tanika founded the White Dress Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting fibroid awareness, supporting research, and bringing together a community of women who work to empower one another. After all, this is crucial. According to the CDC, one in three women will have a hysterectomy by the time she turns 60. But, according to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 18.3% of those hysterectomies aren’t medically necessary. So, why do women have these surgeries? They don’t know about other options!
That’s where Tanika and her project want to make a difference. And they’ve made white dresses their symbol, as it signified a major milestone in Tanika’s recovery: the moment she could rock a white dress without any fear. (Because minimally invasive surgery helped resolve her painful fibroid symptoms.) Now, the white dress has become a symbol of strength and power to other women dealing with fibroids. And it’s just one more step in the crucial fight to take control of women’s menstrual health issues. Especially for Black women like Tanika, who are disproportionately at risk for avoidable hysterectomies. And for the serious complications that often come with open surgery.
As doctors involved in the daily battle against fibroids, we salute Tanika, our forever #WCW. We invite all women who are dealing with fibroids to slip on their white dresses and take control of their health by learning more about UFE, a minimally invasive treatment for fibroids!
On this week’s Woman Crush Wednesday, we are celebrating singer (and former Robert Pattinson fiance) FKA Twigs for opening up about her fibroid pain and treatment journey. Back in 2018, the star revealed on Instagram that she had laproscopic surgery to remove six fibroids from her uterus.
She went on to share: “the tumours were pretty huge, the size of 2 cooking apples 🍎 🍎, 3 kiwis 🥝 🥝 🥝 and a couple of 🍓🍓. a fruit bowl of pain everyday. the nurse said that the weight and size was like being 6 months pregnant.”
More recently, Twigs went on the TTYA Talks Podcast to give an in-depth account of her journey with fibroids.
Fibroid Pain and Loneliness
Sadly, for FKA Twigs, the journey to healing was extremely tough. Two years ago, she shared: “I tried to be brave but it was excruciating at times and to be honest I started to doubt if my body would ever feel the same again,” she said. “I had surgery in December and I was so scared, despite lots of love from friends and family I felt really alone and my confidence as a woman was knocked.”
And on the podcast, she got real about how scared and alone she felt while dealing with her symptoms.
“You could physically see them—like I could put my hand into my stomach and grab them like eggs,” Twigs said. Still, she avoided seeking treatment until her pain was so terrible that she needed immediate medical care.
“I was working so much,” she explains, “and I was so determined [to] make an album, that I actually knew that I had some sort of growth in my stomach for a long time, and I didn’t do anything. I assumed that I had stomach cancer and that I was going to die. It was kind of this underlying stress that I have never told anyone about.”
FKA Twigs and the Road to Recovery
The good news is that, six months later, the singer was feeling better and ready to share a message with other struggling women: “I know that a lot of women suffer from fibroid tumours and I just wanted to say after my experience that you are amazing warriors and that you are not alone. you can get through this,” she said, concluding, “and with this I let go of the pain… love always twigs.”
And, two years later, her message is still empowering other women living with the pain of uterine tumors. After Twigs’ appearance, TTYA host Irene Agbontaen said, “When Twigs first told me she had fibroids – I have to be honest I didn’t realize how many women suffer from them. The more she educated me and the more research I did I was so surprised by the high percentage of women of color who have fibroids. Twigs is a very shy and private person, but she was so passionate about telling her story.”
Finding Alternative Fibroid Treatments
We are so thankful that laproscopic surgery helped FKA Twigs feel like herself again; certainly, many women have been helped by similar procedure. Still, any kind of surgery is traumatic to your body, so why go under the knife if there’s another option?
Thankfully, there is! Known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), it’s a minimally invasive fibroid treatment delivered through a catheter inserted into your arm. Women can typically avoid hospital stays with this outpatient procedure and most feel well enough to stand up and walk immediately afterwards.
So to all of Ms. Twigs’ fellow fibroid warriors, we say: know your options. Come into our Houston Fibroids office and find out if UFE is right for you!
We need to provide more alternatives to fibroid surgery in this country. Too many women with fibroids—non-cancerous tumors of the uterus—get hysterectomies (complete uterus removal). In fact, fibroids are the top reason women in the U.S. get hysterectomies. Because it’s such a serious surgery, many women opt for less invasive fibroid treatments. In our office, we offer Uterine Fibroid Embolization, a non-surgical treatment that shrinks your fibroids.
Oral and Minimally Invasive Alternatives to Fibroid Surgery
Recently, the FDA approved a new oral medication for women with fibroids, that’s expected to be available later this month. Called Oriahnn, the pill combines estrogen, progestin, and elagolix (a gonadotropin-releasing hormone). It’s important to note that this pill doesn’t shrink your fibroids. Instead, it decreases fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding.
How effective is this pill? A recent study highlights the effects of elagolix, just one piece of the new drug’s puzzle. Over the course of two and a half years, they followed 433 women who had fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding. 67% of participating women were African American, since black women are disproportionately affected by fibroids.
Women who took elagolix did get relief from heavy periods, but they also suffered hot flashes, night sweats, and bone loss. In contrast, 90% of the women who took a mix of elagolix, estradiol and norethindrone acetate (“add-back therapy”) experienced reduced blood loss, but with fewer side effects. The “Add-back” therapy combatted effects of stopping estrogen and progestin, as Oriahnn does. Some of these women saw their uterus size decrease. But their fibroids did not shrink.
Also, this pill won’t prevent pregnancy, even though it’s hormonal. And, studies note that taking the medication can cause long-term bone loss. Which means that you can’t take the pill for more than two years. That leads us to the question: what next? Unfortunately, once you stop taking this pill, your fibroid symptoms would return, sending you back to the start of your treatment journey. And, since they don’t want that journey to end in a hysterectomy, researchers at Michigan State University are trying to figure out why fibroids form in the first place. Because, in doing so, they hope to keep every woman from being pushed towards hysterectomy because of fibroid tumors.
Genes and Fibroids: The Newly Discovered Connection
In the course of this study, researchers at MSU’s College of Human Medicine discovered that HOXA13, a gene associated with fibroids, was connected to a process, known as homeotic transformation, that causes uterine muscle cells to turn into cells more typically found inside your cervix.
“It’s a cell type in a position where it doesn’t belong,” explained lead researcher Dr. Jose Teixeira said. “This was a surprise.”
But this discovery isn’t just informative: it could change the way we treat fibroids. Specifically, new treatments could target the chain of events that causes your cells to change. That way, you could treat existing tumors with less invasive treatments, such as Uterine Fibroid Embolization. Then, you could use molecular therapy to prevent any new tumors from forming.
As Teixeira explains, “The discovery that fibroid tumors have characteristics of cervical cells could be a key to better treatments. For example, among pregnant women, the cervix typically softens just before delivery. Figuring out what causes the cervix to soften could suggest new therapies that soften the fibroid tumors and prevent or inhibit their growth.” And, if that works out, you could eliminate any hysterectomy discussions!
What’s Next for Fibroid Research?
While new therapies are still going to take a while, this research is already changing the way scientists study fibroids. Now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding a follow-up fibroid study. It’s focus? Texeira says he wants to discover: “Is there a place where we can intervene? That’s the follow-up. If we can find out what’s causing the cervical softening, then we might be able to investigate treatment.” And that could stop fibroid growth before a tumor ever forms.
Our offices have stringent safety protocols in place to keep you safe and provide the care you need. We are accepting appointments now. Do not delay necessary medical care and follow-up. Call our office today at 713-575-3686 to schedule your appointment with Dr. Fox, Dr. Hardee, or Dr. Valenson.