Category: News

Inside Kamala Harris’ Fibroid Bill

Just before her big VP news, Kamala Harris introduced a new fibroid bill.  Why? After all these years, we still don’t know why women develop these non-cancerous tumors. Thankfully, the Senator’s bill to fund fibroid research and education will change all that.

Senator Harris told Refinery 29, “Millions of women across the country are affected by uterine fibroids, which can present serious health complications. (These include) maternal mortality and morbidity, an ongoing crisis, especially for Black women.”

And she continued. “We have an opportunity to change that with the Uterine Fibroids Research and Education Act. I’m proud to work with Congresswoman [Yvette] Clarke to ensure that women get the care, support, and knowledge they need.”

The Gap in Fibroid Research  Funding fibroid research to narrow the Black woman's healthcare gap

Here’s the problem. Up to 80% of women develop fibroids before they turn 50. In fact, 26 million women between the ages of 15 and 50 have uterine fibroids now. And more than 15 million have painful fibroid symptoms.

But we still don’t know why. Further complicating the problem? Black women develop fibroids more frequently. But they face a healthcare gap. Doctors often discount or downplay their pain and symptoms.

Fibroids look different in every woman. But common symptoms include pelvic pain and long, heavy periods; You may have constipation and/or frequent urination. Bloating and painful intercourse are also signs of fibroids. In some cases, you may go years without  experiencing symptoms. Other times, your fibroids cause trouble immediately. Again, it’s not clear why some women’s fibroids stay small. But other women’s growths disrupt their lives.

Finding a Way Forward

Representative Clarke says, “This bill is an important first step towards making women’s healthcare a priority. Many women who suffer from uterine fibroids have their condition go undiagnosed as a result of a lack of education about the disease. Each year, approximately 7 million women in the U.S. suffer the symptoms of fibroids … This disease has ravaged the lives of women across the country, and increasing funding for research and public education related to fibroids is critical to reversing that trend. If we are serious about fixing inequities in our healthcare system, then we must treat uterine fibroids with the funding and attention it deserves.”

What’s Included in Senator Harris’ Fibroid Bill Houston Fibroids Specialists support the fibroid bill

To that end, the new bill asks to give the National Institutes of Health (NIH) $30 million each year, for the next five years. The purpose?  To expand uterine fibroids research, create a uterine fibroids public education program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to expand and improve data collection on which groups are affected by uterine fibroids, among other aims.

It directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to prove information on available services for women who experience fibroid symptoms.

Finally, the bills asks the Health Resources and Service Administration to arm health care providers with  fibroid information. These materials should highlight that women of color have elevated fibroid risks. And should include information on all available treatment options, including minimally invasive protocols like UFE.

The bill is supported by the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Association of Nurse Practitioners, the Fibroid Foundation, and many other organizations.

Strong Support for Fibroid Education

While the bill has many supporters, one key group of backers is The White Dress Project. We’ve talked about this organization quite a bit on the blog, because its goals align with our own: to help women understand all their treatment options.

So, today, we thank Senator Harris, Representative Clarke and all the women and organizations who advance fibroid awareness. And we invite you to explore all your fibroid treatment options before settling on an invasive surgery like a hysterectomy.

Sources: Yahoo!Life, Refinery 29

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

#WCW: Black Women and Fibroids, a Constant Fight

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. black women and fibroids

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 Exercise can help black women and fibroids

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.

Sources: Chicago Defender

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”

What you Need to Know about Fibroids, Menopause and Cancer

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 woman researching online

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.

Sources: The Mayo Clinic, Journal of Scientific Reports, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Your Houston Fibroids Team is now offering Telemedicine visits!

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! woman researching online

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.

Here’s How to Get the Best Fibroid Treatment Outcome

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

Gynecologist and Interventional RadiologistIf you’ve been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, your gynecologist may present some treatment (less invasive) options. But, interventional radiologists may suggest even more treatment options .

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! 

Fibroid Treatment

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.

Sources: www.jmig.org

5 Facts You Need to Know About Your Uterus

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!

Size Matters 

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 

Here’s What you Need to Know about Period Blood Clots

 

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.

 

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Houston Fibroids is now OPEN for business!

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.

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