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.
Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in and on your uterus. We don’t know why some women get fibroids while others don’t. But now we do know something new about fibroids and your cancer risk. According to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, women with fibroids are at a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer.
Again, the reason for this risk increase isn’t clear. But study authors suggest the connection may be your female hormone levels. Regardless of the reasons, one this is certain. Even if you treat your uterine fibroids, you should always mention your fibroid history to your doctor, since these growths could impact other areas of your health.
Now, if you have fibroids, your healthcare provider may say that you need a hysterectomy. But if you decide to surgically remove your uterus, you will automatically enter menopause. And, according to new research, when your body enters menopause, your risk for endometrial cancer rises significantly.
The Connection between Menopause and Cancer
We already know that endometrial cancer mostly impacts women over 60. And it’s also clear that these women are almost universally in menopause. So, we had an idea that this cancer was connected to menopause.
But now, thanks to a study in Scientific Reports, we know that menopause is actually a trigger for this cancer risk. In fact, Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that menopause changes your vagina’s microbiome. (A microbiome is simply a description of the micro-organisms in any environment.) And these changes increase your endometrial cancer risk.
In the U.S., endometrial cancer is fourth most common among women. And, unfortunately, this cancer’s rates are rising. What that suggests is that changes in our environment, including diet, lifestyle, and the vaginal microbiome, may be responsible for this uptick.
According to Marina Walther-Antonio, Ph.D., lead author of the study, finding these changes is crucial. That’s because, she believes, “This could have important implications for endometrial cancer prevention.”
How to Fight Endometrial Cancer
In the wake of this discovery, researchers can now identify several main risk factors for endometrial cancer. They include: Obesity, post-menopausal status and—the newest addition to the list—a high pH level in your vagina.
Plus, Dr. Walther-Antonio says, “We have determined that all of these factors impact the reproductive tract microbiome, further identified post menopause as a key factor, and are looking ahead to discuss potential translational applications of this knowledge, which may bring new approaches to address current health disparities in endometrial cancer,” says Dr. Walther-Antonio.
The goal of the study was to understand how endometrial cancer risk factors alter the reproductive tract microbiome and endometrial cancer risk. We now clearly see that menopause is a factor in your endometrial cancer risk. Which means that you should carefully consider all your fibroid treatment options before choosing one that will prematurely trigger menopause. For more information on less invasive fibroid treatment options, we invite you to schedule a consult with our Houston area fibroid specialists.
What does Telemedicine care for fibroids mean for you? Instead of coming to our office, we can offer you high-quality fibroid and women’s health care, all from the comfort and convenience of your own home.
In order to provide you with a face-to-face consultation that protects your privacy, we will be conducting appointments through the Doxy Telemedicine platform.
Simply call our office at 713-575-3686, or go online, to request an appointment. When scheduling your appointment, you can specify your preference for a remote consultation!
While we can’t perform procedures such as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE, our minimally-invasive fibroid treatment) via Telemedicine, we can provide you with in-depth, high quality care for initial consultations and follow-up visits. And we can do so without you having to leave your home, or face concerns about social distancing.
Wondering which conditions we can treat via Telemedicine? Women’s health concerns well-served via Telemedicine include:
· Heavy periods
· Pelvic pain
· Frequent constipation or urination
· Follow up care for fibroid procedures
Need more information? Check out our Telemedicine FAQ.
Frequently Asked Telemedicine Questions
Q: How will I meet with my doctor?
A: Once you’ve scheduled an appointment, you’ll receive a link to your doctor’s personal ‘room’ in Doxy. Just click on the link approximately 10 minutes before your scheduled visit, and you’ll be ready for your consultation. There’s no app to download. You can check-in for your visit from any internet browser.
Q: How long will my visit last, and will I be able to ask my doctor questions?
A: Just like an in-person visit, you will see your doctor for as long as you need to address your immediate concerns. And you will be able to ask and get answers for any of your pertinent medical concerns.
Q: If I need a prescription, can this be covered during my Telemedicine appointment?
A: If, during your visit, your doctor determines that you will need prescription medications, you will be able to receive this prescription during your remote visit.
Q: Will my insurance cover a Telemedicine visit?
A: Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, most insurance companies have agreed to cover the cost of Telemedicine visits, but you should confirm your individual coverage prior to your telemedicine appointment.
Q: How can I ensure my privacy during a Telemedicine appointment?
A: Thanks to our Doxy platform, the entire visit will be encrypted, protected and compliant with all HIPAA regulations. So you can feel comfortable and secure in sharing all your concerns with your physician during this Telemedicine appointment.
If you have fibroid tumors, lessening the gap between your gynecologist and an interventional radiologist can mean a world of difference to your health. When you don’t know all your treatment options, you may not get the results you want, even if you treat your fibroids.
Uterine Fibroid Treatment Options in Houston
In the past, gynecologists made hysterectomies into the standard fibroid treatment. Now, uterine fibroid embolization is a more common option. So, if you want to avoid surgery, you need a gynecologist who understands the value of UFE. That way, you can make an informed decision about your treatment options.
Interventional Radiologist and Gynecologist Collaboration
Today, we know that collaborative care gives patients access to all the minimally invasive options available. Studies by the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology show that gynecologists refer just 61% of fibroid patients to Interventional Radiologists. And that means that only 38% percent had UFE when many more were candidates. The women who didn’t have UFE treatment needed follow up care. What does this teach you? That you have to ask about UFE! Your doctor may not volunteer the information!
You do need your gynecologist first to perform a pelvic exam. However, you also need to see specialists like the interventional radiologists at Houston Fibroids to learn about UFE.
That’s because Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that can be done at the Houston Fibroids offices in Katy and Bellaire. During UFE treatment, an interventional radiologist will block the blood vessels around the fibroids resulting in the fibroid shrinking.
Now that you know your options, contact us at (713) 575-3686 to schedule a consultation to learn more about uterine fibroid embolization.
Did you know that African American women have some of the worst fibroid experiences? It’s sad, but true. First, they are they three times more likely to develop these non-cancerous tumors. As if that’s not bad enough, their treatment process and outcome is also different than women of other races. And, often, it is much worse. This is what you need to know.
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.
Sources: Black Women’s Health Imperatives, bwhi.org
Please be aware of upcoming office hour changes and closings during the holiday season!
As women, we know that we have a uterus. We may know a few things about this organ, like it’s function and vague location, but there’s lot’s more to learn! With that in mind, here are five fascinating facts about the uterus we bet you haven’t yet discovered!
The uterus is usually pear-sized, but it can expand to the size of a watermelon. When you aren’t pregnant, your uterus is only about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide, although this size varies among women. Of course, if you do become pregnant, it starts to stretch, expanding to accommodate your growing fetus (it can reach the size of a large watermelon!) Given its ability to stretch, factors other than a baby can affect the size of your uterus. Fibroid tumors, for example, can cause your uterus to expand, mimicking the look of pregnancy even without conception.
You Can Have Multiples
Yup, that’s right! Some women are born with more than one uterus. Although very rare, some women do have uterus didelphys, a congenital condition where two distinct uteruses develop (this was recently brought to life on a 2019 episode of Grey’s Anatomy.) Some women with this condition may also have two cervixes and two vaginas, but others may not have any external reflection of this condition, making it unlikely to be diagnosed until that woman wants to or becomes pregnant.
It’s Not All Smooth Sailing
Sometimes, the uterus has bumps and tilts. Known as bicornuate or retroverted, some women have a uterus with two bumps that make it resemble a heart; others have a uterus that tilts forward or backward instead of straight up and down. Women with a heart-shaped (bicornuate) uterus are unlikely to experience symptoms, although carrying a baby to term may be more difficult. A retroverted uterus also shouldn’t effect your period or fertility, but sometimes it’s a symptom of another condition, like endometriosis or an infection.
Your Uterus Could Be At Risk
Your uterus is vulnerable to cancer. Uterine cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States. It’s also the seventh most common cause of cancer-related death in this country. And, according to the CDC, it’s becoming even more common: in fact, women who carry extra weight are up to four times more likely to develop uterine cancer, and we all know that obesity has become a national concern. Why does weight increase your risk of uterine cancer? Obesity effects your hormone levels, because fat cells have high levels of estrogen, and estrogen increases your risk of this kind of cancer.
You Can Avoid Hysterectomy
Removing your uterus is not always the answer. Even if you’re dealing with non-cancerous conditions like fibroids or adenomyosis, you might be referred for a hysterectomy. But removing your uterus can affect more than just your reproductive health. So, before undergoing this major surgery, you must explore less invasive treatment options like Uterine Fibroid Embolization.
Sources: yahoo.com, cdc.gov
When you think about blood clots, you likely think about the ones that can form inside your veins and cause major health problems. But when you notice a blood clot during your period, it’s in a whole different category.
Menstrual clots aren’t composed entirely of blood—they are partially coagulated blood, but also contain some tissue from your uterine lining and dead skin cells. In many cases, these clots are part of a normal menstrual cycle, though they usually form when your flow is very heavy. And, as you may already know, a heavy flow can be a sign of other medical problems. So how can you tell if these clots are normal or something to worry about? Read on for answers!
When Should I Worry about Menstrual Blood Clots?
As it turns out, the key here is size. If a clot is small—between the size of a nickel and a dime, even on your heaviest day—you’re probably in the clear. Especially if you’re not experiencing unusual pain, cramping or other symptoms. And don’t worry too much about the color, either. Clots come in many shades, from light red to dark, all of which are normal.
So when should you worry about those clots? Once again, size is a factor, so anything larger than a quarter is worth discussing with your doctor. And, if your clots represent a change in your cycle, that’s also worth bringing up at your next gyno appointment. But there’s more. If you’re seeing clots and:
· Experiencing longer periods, lasting more than seven to 10 days
· Your flow is so heavy you have to change your pad or tampon hourly
· You are experiencing regular spotting
· You have lots of pain and cramping
It’s time to talk to your doctor ASAP.
Why am I clotting during my period?
As we discussed, some clots are just part of a normal flow. But other conditions could be causing those worrisome clots, including:
Uterine fibroids: These are tumors that develop in your uterus, but they are almost never cancerous. Still, they can cause symptoms like long, heavy periods, and extreme pelvic pain.
Endometriosis: This condition occurs when the endometrial tissue (it lines the inner portion of your uterus) grows outside.
Adenomyosis: Like endometriosis, this is a condition where endometrial tissue escapes the uterus. But with adenomyosis, the tissue grows into the muscular walls of your uterus.
Uterine polyps: These growths are attached to the inner wall of your uterus, and reach into the uterine cavity. They are not usually cancerous, but can change and become problematic.
Other conditions, including missed miscarriages and even cancer could be causing your large clots, so be sure and speak to your doctor if this is a concern. The good news is that many of these conditions, including fibroids and adenomyosis, can be controlled with minimally invasive treatment options. So get into the office today and start feeling better.
As interventional radiologists, we always want patients to consider every fibroid treatment option. And, we want women to find the least-invasive treatment that will provide them with symptom relief. That’s why we are so excited about the results of a new, 10 year EMMY study. Its findings reveal that Uterine Fibroid Embolization provides similar symptom relief to hysterectomy!
Women with Fibroid Symptoms Find Relief
The study followed women who treated fibroids that caused heavy menstrual bleeding. Researchers compared two groups: those who’d had UFE and those who’d had hysterectomy. Women in both groups reported on their clinical results and on improvements in their overall quality of life.
Here’s the great news: after 10 years, two thirds of UFE patients didn’t need hysterectomies. That’s because their symptoms had resolved. Around 35% of the women did go on to have a hysterectomy, but the rest found relief without radical surgery. And, even within the hysterectomy group, 17% of women required follow-up surgical procedures.
Jim Reekers, lead researcher, says: “After 10-years of follow-up, about two thirds of patients with symptomatic uterine fibroids, who undergo treatment with embolization can avoid a hysterectomy.”
He went on to state that after 10 years, women in both the UFE and hysterectomy groups had similar quality of life results. In conclusion, he said, “Uterine artery embolization is a well-documented and good alternative to hysterectomy for symptomatic uterine fibroids, on which all eligible patients should be counselled.”
History of Uterine Artery Embolization
Uterine artery embolization, or uterine fibroid embolization, has been a viable fibroid treatment option since 1995. So why aren’t more women opting for this less invasive procedure? The sad answer is: many women don’t even know it’s an option.
As Reekers told Interventional News: “Not informing patients about uterine fibroid embolization, when these 10-year data are available, is unethical. Uterine fibroid embolization is an interventional radiology procedure that has level one evidence to back its use. In this trial, we treated the worst end-stage scenario without any reintervention, so real world outcomes for embolization will be even better.”
UFE vs. Hysterectomy: Equal Results, Traumatic Differences
In conclusion, study authors found that UFE is a very effective fibroid treatment option. In fact, it was just as effective as hysterectomy. As the study authors reported, ““After 10 years, generic health-related quality of life remained stable, without differences between both groups. The urogenital distress inventory and the defecation distress inventory showed a decrease in both groups, without significant differences between study arms, but with a trend towards better outcome for uterine artery embolization.”
But, there is one big difference between the two treatment options. UFE’s recovery time is, typically, a few days. The aftermath of a hysterectomy can be felt for months, and even years, following the procedure. Given that fact, doctors owe it to their patients to share UFE information. And if your doctor isn’t telling you about this treatment option, come into our Houston area offices to learn more.
Sources: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, interventionalnews.com
Of course, every woman’s menstrual cycle is different. Generally speaking, howeve, your cycle begins on the first day of one period and ends on the first day of the next. The cycle usually lasts between 21 to 35 days.
For the first few years after you get your period, you may have long cycles; these will likely shorten and become more regular as you get older. Your estrogen levels also begin to decline as you age, so it’s not uncommon to experience shorter, lighter and less regular periods even before menopause begins. Barring the natural aging process, here are some changes you should recognize as signs to talk to your doctor.
What the Length of Your Period Means
A normal period can last from two to seven days, but most women have periods that last three to five days. If your period is very short, it could be a sign that your estrogen levels are low. If you don’t produce enough estrogen, the lining of your womb won’t be very thick so, when it’s time for it to shed, the process won’t take very long.
Your birth control, weight loss, intense exercise schedule and/or stress could also impact and shorten the length of your period.
If your period lasts longer, hormonal imbalances could also be to blame. Conditions that can cause hormone imbalances include: polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), diabetes and thyroid conditions. Extreme weight gain can also throw off your hormones.
Uterine fibroids (non-cancerous, muscular tumors), can also make your periods longer and heavier, as can polyps, (Small, benign growths on the lining of the uterus).
If your heavy, late period is a one time thing, it may actually be due to a miscarriage. Uterine and cervical cancers can also make you have heavier than normal periods.
Finally, some medications can make your periods longer and heavier. Potential culprits include: anti-inflammatories, estrogen and progestin supplements, and anticoagulants.
As always, it’s important to remember that your normal period won’t be identical to your friends’, mom’s or sister’s. If, however, your personal normal period has changed and your concerned, talk to your doctor right away.