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.
What’s the thyroid fibroid connection? Well, we know that many women develop fibroids—non-cancerous uterine tumors. And we know that even more women of color live with fibroids. In fact, black women are three times more likely than white women to develop fibroids. Plus, those fibroids tend to be larger and cause more disruptive symptoms. But we don’t know why some women get fibroids and some women don’t.
For years, researchers have tried to pinpoint an answer. They’ve discovered that hormones play a role in your fibroid risk. As does exposure to certain chemicals, which is many people believe black women’s hair products might play a role in their fibroid risk. Stress and family history can also raise your fibroid risk.
All of these ideas offer helpful information. Because, the more you know about potential fibroid risks, the better you may be able to prevent their growth. Which is why, today, we’re discussing one new theory about fibroids: a possible thyroid-fibroid connection.
Studying the Thyroid and Fibroids
In a new study in the Endocrine Journal, researchers noticed a connection between thyroid nodules and fibroids, in pre-menopausal women. (Thyroid nodules are fluid-filled lumps that form at the base of your thyroid. Most aren’t cancerous. But a few will be, so you should always see a doctor for nodules.) In other words, women with thyroid nodules were very likely to have fibroids.
They found this thyroid fibroid connection by looking at electronic medical records for women aged 24 to 51. Each of these women had check-ups between 2017 and 2018 at a hospital in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China. During that checkup, they also had lab testing, thyroid ultrasounds, and transvaginal pelvic ultrasounds.
What they found was telling. Among the women studied, 432 had uterine fibroids. And 421 were fibroid free. In the group of women with fibroids, 65% also had thyroid nodules. But among women without fibroids, only 52% had thyroid nodules. Which means that women with fibroids are more likely to have thyroid nodules.
And the opposite also seemed true. Women with thyroid nodules were more likely to have multiple fibroids. But there was no difference in fibroid size for women with nodules compared to women without them.
Pursuing the Thyroid Fibroid Connection
The results of this study are interesting. But, once again, they just give us a hint about your fibroid risk. Without offering one clear reason why women develop fibroids. Even study authors recognized the limitations on their findings.
These included missing data about the women’s estrogen, antithyroglobulin, and antithyroperoxidase levels. And that’s a big deal, since we know there is a connection between your hormones and your fibroid risk.
Still, the study does suggest that thyroid nodules may be associated with uterine fibroids. Moving forward, researchers will keep exploring this thyroid fibroid connection. Because it can also teach us more about your future risk for fibroid cancer.
Now, even while we wait for answers, you don’t have to wait for relief from fibroid symptoms. At our Houston area fibroid office, we offer minimally invasive fibroid treatment. So you can get rid of painful symptoms without the risk of surgery. Want to learn if you’re a good candidate for this alternative to myomectomy? Schedule a consultation at our office. We’ll help you review all your fibroid treatment options.
Sources: Endocrinology Advisor
Many women with fibroids experience heavy, long periods. They may also have irregular menstrual cycles. While unpleasant, new evidence suggests that these long periods could also be deadly. In fact, women with irregular or long period cycles were more likely to die before they turned 70. They also had a higher risk of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease, especially if they experienced longer cycles.
The Health Risk of Irregular Periods
To reach their conclusions, studies explored life cycles of women with typical menstrual cycles (between 26 and 31 days.) Then, they compared the findings to women whose menstrual cycles lasted more than 40 days.
We already know that, in the short term, a long period can lead to anemia. Having irregular periods increased your risk for certain diseases and earlier death. And the risk increased dramatically if your cycles were irregular or long during your teen and adult years.
In addition to serious health risks, an irregular cycle also increased your odds of having a higher body mass index (BMI), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excessive hair growth, endometriosis and growths in your uterus.gular
The exact reason for your increased risk of death wasn’t clear. But authors believe it may have something to with the disruption to your hormones.
Menstrual Cycle Study Details
The study, which started in 1993, involved 79,505 pre-menopausal women. None of them had a prior history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes. Over the course of the study, they reported how long and regular their periods were at the ages of 14 to 17 years old, 18 to 22, and 29 to 46.
After 24 years, the team followed up with the women. They examined medical records, autopsy reports or death certificates. And what did they find? 1,975 of the women died before turning 70. Of those deaths, 894 were from cancer, and 172 from cardiovascular disease. Women with irregular or long period cycles were more likely to be among the deceased.
PCOS and Irregular Periods
But there’s more. Irregular periods weren’t the only risk for early death. So was your contraceptive use! In fact, study authors discovered that women who used contraceptive for more than 14 years were also in trouble. They believe this was related to younger women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Many PCOS sufferers start birth control in their teens to control symptoms. So this increased risk could also be tied to PCOS, another condition that leads to irregular periods.
Of course, the study authors note that PCOS is also linked to obesity. And PCOS can also cause insulin resistance and hypertension. Both of which could also affect your risk for early death.
Still, the research was pretty clear on one factor. Irregular periods, whatever their cause, are associated with premature death. And the most common cause of that early death is cardiovascular disease. Which should be cause for concern if you’re living with fibroids and irregular periods.
Of course, this study has limitations. But the authors hope will make women pay attention to their cycles because of these findings. After all, periods are “vital signs” of your overall health. In other words, problems with your period may be a sign of more serious problems. Whether that’s have fibroids, PCOS or another condition, it’s important to discuss your cycle with your doctor. And if you discover that fibroids cause your irregular periods? Schedule an appointment with our Houston fibroids experts to learn your treatment options.
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. It could also explain why black women develop fibroids at a younger age than women of other races. Daughters are also three times as likely to have fibroids if their mother experienced them, which just completes this vicious circle.
Recently, the Black Women’s Health Study offered another theory. One interesting new idea was that black women’s increased fibroid risk was linked to childhood trauma. Something that is devastating for us to learn.
And here’s the worse news. More African American women have fibroids, and severe fibroid symptoms, they don’t get help quickly. In fact, studies show that African American women reported taking an average of four years to seek fibroid treatment
How to Treat Uterine Fibroids
Unfortunately, African American women are not only three times more likely to develop uterine fibroids but they are also more likely to have larger and more densely populated fibroid tumors, so the treatment options can be different. While African American women diagnosed with fibroids are twice as likely to have a hysterectomy as Caucasian women, it’s important that those diagnosed with uterine fibroids are given comprehensive treatment options.
- Non-invasive: include watchful waiting if you don’t experience symptoms, hormone treatments that may treat some symptoms, or an ultrasound procedure.
- Less invasive: include uterine fibroid embolization, or endometrial ablation, which removes the lining of the uterine.
- Surgical: include a myomectomy in which the fibroids are surgically removed, or a hysterectomy where the entire uterus is removed. The more invasive a surgery, the more room there is for complications.
Talk to your gynecologist and our fibroid specialists about the symptoms you’re experiencing to help decide on your best approach to treatment.
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
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
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.
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.
Sources: Chicago Defender
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.
Please be aware of upcoming office hour changes and closings during the holiday season!