Category: News

5 Fun Facts About the Uterus

As women, we know that we have a uterus. We may know a few things about the uterus, 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!

1.     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.

2.   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.

3.   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.

4.   Your uterus is vulnerable to cancer. Uterine cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States—and 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.  

5.    Removing your uterus is not always the answer. Many women are told to undergo a hysterectomy, even if they are dealing with non-cancerous conditions like fibroids or adenomyosis. But removing your uterus can affect more than just your reproductive health, so before undergoing this major surgery, it’s crucial to explore less invasive treatment options like Uterine Fibroid Embolization.

Sources: yahoo.com, cdc.gov 

How Long Should My Period Last?

Abnormally long or heavy periods can be a sign that you have uterine fibroids, but many women ask: how long should a normal period last? 

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

doctor appointment
If your period lasts too long, make an appointment with your doctor: it could mean you have fibroids!

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.

 

Sources: RSVPlive.com 

5 Fibroid Myths to Forget Right Now

If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, people will likely inundate you with information and opinions. Unfortunately, not everything you hear will actually be true. To help you sift through the info overload, here are 10 common thoughts about fibroid tumors that are totally and completely untrue: 

MYTH #1: Fibroids are cancers.

Because they are tumors, many patients worry that their fibroids are a sign of cancer. Fortunately, that’s completely untrue! Fibroids are benign growths; they aren’t linked to uterine cancer. They can be painful and cause disruptive symptoms like pelvic pain and heavy bleeding, but they are not typically a life-threatening condition.  

MYTH #2: Women with fibroids need a hysterectomy

For years, women with fibroids were told that hysterectomy was their only treatment option. Today, however, that is no longer the case. Myomectomies can be performed to surgically remove individual tumors, or women may seek Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive option. This nonsurgical procedure is performed on an outpatient basis; it treats fibroids while preserving a woman’s uterus.

MYTH #3: Women with fibroids can’t get or stay pregnant.

While some fibroids may affect your ability to conceive, or may complicate your pregnancy and delivery process, others will not have any impact on your fertility. If you have fibroids and are having a hard time conceiving, however, seeking fibroid treatment may improve your odds of starting a family.

MYTH #4: Removed fibroids don’t come back

While we’d like to believe that women will only require one round of fibroid treatments, this is not always the case. For some women, fibroids will recur after an initial treatment. For this reason, surgery may not be an ideal treatment option. While many women solve their fibroid issues after one round of UFE, those who require additional treatment will at least not be dealing with multiple invasive surgeries.

MYTH #5: All women with fibroids have heavy periods and pelvic pain.

With fibroids, as with life, every woman is different. Some women with fibroids will present with these common symptoms. Others will experience no symptoms whatsoever, and may in fact be surprised by their diagnoses. Still others will face constipation, frequent urination or other issues. What’s key is to see your OBGYN for regular exams, and to bring up any side effect or symptom that is unusual for your individual body.

Warning: Excess Weight Could Delay a Fibroid Diagnosis

Women with uterine fibroids typically experience symptoms like heavy or prolonged periods, weight gain, protruding bellies, constipation and pelvic pain. But what if you already experienced many of those symptoms because you were carrying extra weight? It would certainly make it harder to recognize an abnormal (but non-cancerous) growth in your uterus! UAE treatment for Adenomyosis

Missed Fibroid Symptoms

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Finding Answers

Finally, when Tina was extremely thin, she had a moment that put everything into perspective. 

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

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

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

 

Recognizing Fibroid Symptoms

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

 

Even Penguins Get Fibroids!

Fibroids (non-cancerous growths that develop in the uterus) are very common: in fact, about 80% of all women will develop one or more fibroids by the age of 50. While that statistic may seem surprising, here’s something you may find even more unexpected: fibroids are a problem in the animal kingdom, too! 

Take Bette, an 18-inch African penguin living at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, PA. recently, she had to have surgery to remove a mass from her abdomen as well as several fibroid tumors from her uterus. 

While any kind of uterine surgery can be complicated, the process is particularly trying on a penguin: the compact bird’s body is protected by thick feathers (her surgeons used a mustache clipper to get through and make an incision) and three separate layers of skin and blubber, each of which required its own stitches. 

Thankfully, Bette recovered well from her surgery. Just days after the procedure, she was hopping around her recovery enclosure, ready to play with toys. Her full recovery was expected to take 10 days, at which point Bette will return to her long time penguin mate, Sidney, and their babies, Sunshine and D.J.

Unfortunately, human patients don’t bounce back from surgery as quickly as penguins. In fact, according to recent studies, women who treat their fibroids via hysterectomy will face long term health consequences, including an increased risk of obesity and heart disease! 

That’s the bad news…but here’s the good news. Unlike penguins, humans with fibroids have access to non-surgical treatment options. Minimally invasive fibroid treatments like embolization make for quicker recovery times with less complications down the road. So, if you’re dealing with a fibroid diagnosis and want to explore minimally invasive treatment plans, reach out to Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee, your Houston area fibroid specialists! 

Dr. Oz Takes on Fibroids!

During their lifetime, most women will develop uterine fibroids–a type of benign tumor that can wreak havoc on your general and sexual health. In recognition of this widespread problem, Dr. Oz recently devoted an entire episode of his daytime talk show to discussing this widespread female health problem. 

In the show, Dr. Oz revealed that a shocking 70% of women are affected by fibroids, but most don’t know that they have a problem. How could that be? The reason is simple: too many women don’t know what symptoms they need to look for, or how to assess their fibroid risk. 

More About Fibroids

Fibroids are not cancerous, but they are abnormal growths in your uterus. Typically, they develop in pre-menopausal women.  They get larger thanks to estrogen stimulation, which means pregnancy can speed up fibroid growth. Women with fibroids can have normal pregnancies, but they need to be monitored carefully throughout. Some women with fibroids will have difficulty conceiving or carrying a baby to term. 

Diagnosing Fibroids
Your doctors can detect fibroid warning signs during a routine pelvic exam; if your uterus feels unusual, especially if it seems larger than normal, you may have fibroids. At that point, your doctor may recommend a pelvic ultrasound to complete your diagnosis.

Fibroid Symptoms
Fibroids can push on your bladder, making you pee much more or less than you normally do. Fibroids can also make your period flow much heavier than usual, and they can cause you to feel pressure and pain in your pelvic region. Many women with fibroids also experience back pain.  

Who’s At Risk? 

Women whose mom’s had fibroids, overweight women  and African-American women all have elevated fibroid risks. Of course, it’s important to note that not all at-risk women will develop fibroids. In the same way, women with no known risk factors may end up dealing with fibroids. 

Regardless of your history, it’s important to remember that fibroids don’t have to change your life. With today’s advancements in interventional radiology, fibroids can be treated without surgery. You DON’T need to have a hysterectomy to beat the pain. They key to treating fibroids is to discuss all your options with your doctor, and to make sure you choose the option that works best for your lifestyle and future family goals. 

 

Dr. Hardee Joins UFE Specialists in Portugal

Last month, Dr. Eric Hardee travelled all the way to Lisbon, Portugal for CIRSE 2018 (the Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology Society of Europe’s annual conference.)

During his four days in Lisbon, Dr. Hardee joined 7000 other Interventional Radiologists at seminars and presentations highlighting major advancements in the field.  At the conference, Dr. Hardee and his colleagues learned about major new advancements in patient care. He was introduced to new clinical case studies. And he had the chance to meet with other Uterine Fibroid Embolization specialists, including Dr. Jim Spies (pictured at right with Dr. Hardee.) Dr. Spies is considered one of the top UFE specialists in the United States, and it was an incredible opportunity for Dr. Hardee to meet with Dr. Spies and bring back new techniques and perspectives to our Houston Fibroids practice.

Although international travel is not always easy, Dr. Hardee left his family and his patients in order to remain at the forefront of alternative treatments for fibroids. Too many women diagnosed with fibroids believe that surgery—either myomectomies or hysterectomies—are their only treatment options.

As a provider of UFE, a minimally-invasive, outpatient fibroid treatment, Dr. Hardee knows that knowledge is power. For women with fibroids, knowing all their treatment options could preserve their fertility and spare them a long hospital stay and recovery period. For UFE providers like Dr. Hardee, continuing to work on treatment advancements will not only help his own patients, but it may just help spread the word about non-invasive fibroid treatments. And for a cause like that, crossing the Atlantic is well worth the trip (plus, it doesn’t hurt that Lisbon is awfully beautiful!)