Category: News

How Long Does a Period Last?

2How long does a period last? And does the length of that period have implications for your health? Well, abnormally long or heavy periods can be a sign that you have uterine fibroids. But, since every woman’s body is different, you may wonder: how long does your period last if you’re healthy? Let’s take a closer look.

How Long Does a Period Last: Average Ranges

Of course, every woman’s menstrual cycle is different. Generally speaking, however, your cycle begins on the first day of one period and ends on the first day of the next. This 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: Shorter Days

how long does a period last
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 (hormonal or an IUD), weight loss, intense exercise schedule and/or stress could also impact and shorten the length of your period.

Other medications can impact your period, too. Pre-menopausal hormone therapy can affect your cycle. Thyroid medications can affect your period length and your cycle, as can anti-depressants and medications for epilepsy.

What Makes it Longer

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 such as Warfarin. Even if you’re on a preventative aspirin regimen, that can make your periods longer and heavier.

As always, it’s important to remember that your normal period won’t be identical to your friends’, mom’s or sister’s. But if your personal normal period has changed and your’re concerned, talk to your doctor right away. Then, if fibroids seem to be the problem, we invite you to schedule a consultation with our Houston area fibroid specialists.

 

Sources: RSVPlive.com

Pregnancy After Removal of Fibroids: What You Need to Know

If you want to have a pregnancy after removal of fibroids, choosing your best treatment may be challenging. That’s especially true if you have large fibroids, or if you have many of these non-cancerous uterine tumors.

After all, many women with multiple fibroids think hysterectomy is their best—or only—treatment option. But if you want to start or grow your family, or avoid hysterectomy complications, you’ll need a different approach. So, in this article, we’ll explore the differences between two fertility-preserving fibroid treatments: UFE and myomectomy.

 

Pregnancy After Removal of Fibroids: Fertility Preserving Treatments

Up to 80% of women will develop uterine fibroids before hitting menopause. These growths form from cells in the muscular outer layer of your uterus (called the myometrium) and can leave you with heavy periods, pelvic pain and sexual discomfort, among other disruptive symptoms.

While some women with fibroids never develop symptoms, this large survey reveals that women with fibroids are more likely to experience bladder pressure, cramps and pain between and during periods, along with painful sex.  As a result, almost 43% of the women with fibroids said their tumors took a negative toll on life, affecting intimacy, work performance and even their familial relationships.

Unfortunately, many doctors consider a hysterectomy to be the main—or only—fibroid treatment option. But fertility sparing approaches do exist. (And they’re very effective.) These are the two main options.

UFE and Pregnancy After Removal of FibroidsPregnancy after removal of fibroids

If you choose Uterine Fibroid Embolization, your interventional radiologist will perform this outpatient procedure. Instead of going under anesthesia, you’ll get a small injection in your arm or leg that allows us to insert a catheter. Next, we’ll deliver material to your uterine artery through that catheter. This cuts off blood supply to your fibroids, so they shrink and eventually disappear.

Now, some research suggests that UAE may increase your risk for intrauterine adhesions. And we don’t yet know exactly how they could impact your fertility or ability to carry a baby to term. Still, a recent study comparing UFE and Myomectomy revealed that both procedures delivered similar results. So it’s worth considering both options. Especially if you want to avoid surgery.

Myomectomy: Surgical Fibroid Removal

With this procedure, your surgeon will make one or more small incisions in your abdomen or pelvic region to access and remove your fibroids. While less invasive than a hysterectomy, a myomectomy still requires anasthesia, hospital stays and a more extended recovery period.

If you want to pursue pregnancy after removal of fibroids, you’ll have to choose between these options. And there are many factors to consider. First, you should understand that fibroid location matters when it comes to impact on fertility. So, depending on your situation, you may choose to delay treatment until after your family is complete. (But keep in mind that fibroids can impact your pregnancy, even if they don’t get in the way of conception.) Plus, if you are pregnant with fibroids, you’ll need extra monitoring to make sure the growths don’t limit fetal development.

In other words, choosing to treat fibroids before pregnancy may improve your chances of carrying your baby to term, and avoiding complications. So, if you have fibroids and still want to start or expand your family, we invite you to schedule a consultation with our Houston area specialists. We’ll discuss your fertility-preserving treatment options and help you make a choice that works for your goals.

 

#WCW: Black Women’s Health and Fibroids, a Constant Fight

Black women and fibroids just seem to go together. About 80% of all black women develop fibroids by the time they hit their 50s. In comparison, only 70% of white women will get these tumors in their lifetime. And it happens sooner too: almost 25% of black women aged 18-30 30 have fibroids. That’s another awful contrast, since just 6% of white women that age have them. Black women are also two to three times more likely to have recurring fibroids or suffer from complications. This means that the rate of fibroid development is much higher among black women, but that’s not the only concern.

Black women are far more likely to end up in the hospital because of fibroid complications. Even worse? Because they have more fibroids, traditional screening methods often miss endometrial cancers in Black women, resulting in their 90% higher mortality rate for this cancer type, according to a new study in JAMA Oncology.

Those are scary statistics. And that’s why many women impacted by these benign tumors are taking steps to raise fibroid awareness. Another motivating reason? They want to help other black women gain the information needed to receive high-quality fibroid care, that doesn’t always involve a hysterectomy. Because black women are also at least twice as likely as white women to get a hysterectomy due to fibroids, even when they’re still of childbearing age. But they need some encouragement to start speaking about their experiences. Something our uterine fibroid embolization specialist Dr. Eric Hardee recently tried doing, thanks to this interview with NBC news.

Now, those missions line up perfectly with our own. So, today, we salute two of the women crusading for black women with fibroids as our Women Crushes of the Week. black women and fibroids

Black Women’s Health and Fibroids: the Silent 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.”

Black Women’s Health: Uterine Fibroid Embolization

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: Healthy Woman, Chicago Defender

2 New Warnings on Cancer-Spreading Power Morcellator!

As fibroid specialists, we’ve been warning women about power morcellator treatment for some time. Two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning for women with fibroids. It revealed that this common fibroid treatment can spread cancer cells in women’s bodies! Last year, the FDA updated its warnings to reflect the serious risk of the power morcellator. And recently, two new studies (and one devastating lawsuit) confirmed the deadly consequences of using this tool on unsuspecting women.

Fibroid Treatment Options

Here at our Houston practice, we offer minimally invasive fibroid treatment. But many women with fibroids choose surgical treatment. Then, during that surgery, the fibroid removal involves a power morcellator. This is a machine that shreds the benign tumors inside the uterus. Some doctors like this treatment option because it is relatively non-invasive, compared to traditional surgery. Plus, it leaves women with smaller scars, and results in almost no down time. Unfortunately, it has now become clear that this supposedly non-invasive treatment option could actually act as a silent killer!

How a Power Morecellator Spreads Danger

While fibroids are non-cancerous tumors, the FDA reports that 1 in 350 women who are undergoing fibroid removal treatments are also suffering from undetected cancer! And new research published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology confirms these findings. Researchers from the University of Michigan followed just over 2500 women receiving fibroid treatment in 2013. And one out of every 368 of the women had undetected uterine cancer. So, if her surgeons used a morcellator, they would spread cancer in her body.

Why? For those women who have cancer cells at the time of their treatment, the power morcellator actually makes their cases worse in two ways. First, it increases the risk of leaving behind the shredded, cancerous cells. Second: the morcellator spreads those cells around to a larger area of the uterus. Then, in some cases, those cells spread cancer to other parts of the body!

One Woman’s Cautionary Tale

Dawn Green, who lives in Ontario Canada, knows all too well the danger of power morcellators. Back in 2010, she has a hysterectomy to treat her fibroids. Unfortunately, her surgeons used a power morcellator during the procedure. Then, five years later, Dawn woke up with severe abdominal pain. And, after some scans at her doctor’s office, that pain turned out to be a sign of uterine leiomyosarcoma. (This is a type of cancer that doesn’t respond to chemo or radiation.) And the tumors were in her stomach.

But how did uterine cancer tumors end up in her abdomen? The morcellator sprayed undiagnosed cancer cells into her stomach. And that means Dawn will spend the rest of her life getting scanned for cancer every three months. Which is why she sued the makers of the power morcellator. And why she wants other women to avoid this devastating outcome after their own fibroid procedures.

Proceeding with Caution

Given the risk, the FDA originally advised caution when considering this approach to fibroid treatment. Now, their updated guidance suggests morcellators should be packaged with boxed-warnings to reflect the risk of spreading cancer. This combines with previous warnings to only use the power morecellator with containment systems. And to limit its use to women who are under 50 and haven’t entered menopause.

Still, a second new study–this one in the JAMA Oncology–offered one small positive effect linked to morcellator use. Researchers said that when surgeons use a power morcellator to remove fibroids, their female patients face a lower risk of undetected cancer than women who undergo hysterectomy. At the same time, they note that using the morcellator gets more dangerous as women age. And they emphasize the sketchy safety history linked to this device.

As any woman with fibroids can appreciate, minimally invasive treatments are ideal, but not at the expense of overall health! In our Houston Fibroids practice, Drs. Fox and Hardee offer a different kind of procedure: a truly non invasive treatment that doesn’t put other areas of your health at risk!

A Better Choice Than the Power Morcellator

Known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), treatment is administered through an artery in your left wrist. Using special X-ray equipment,  a catheter (small tube) goes through the femoral artery and into the uterine artery, near your fibroid tumors. When it reaches the right spot, the doctors simply inject small spheres  through the catheter and into the blood flow leading to the uterine fibroid tumors. Next, those small spheres (embolic materials) block the vessels around the fibroid, cutting off the blood and oxygen it needs to grow. This blockage makes fibroids shrink, and the spheres stay in your blood vessels permanently so the fibroids don’t grow back!

Not only is this procedure fairly quick and easy (you can sit up and walk almost immediately after treatment) it is also a much safer option. UFE patients avoid surgery, general anesthesia, and. most importantly, the risk of spreading dangerous cancer cells throughout their bodies!

While UFE is not for everyone, it is a great choice for those who qualify. If you are interested in learning more, please schedule an in office consultation with our team!

Sources: U.S. Food & Drug Administration

Know Your 6 Fibroid Treatment Options

If you have uterine fibroids, it’s important to know your fibroid treatment options. Until recently, most women didn’t hear about choices. Instead, they were given hysterectomy or other surgeries to treat fibroids and other causes of pelvic pain. But now we know there are better alternatives to a hysterectomy. Which is why we want women  to know all their fibroid treatment options.

Continue reading “Know Your 6 Fibroid Treatment Options”

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 its 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! We hope they help you protect this organ. So you can live symptom-free and avoid unnecessary surgery!

1. Size Matters

5 facts about your uterus

The uterus is usually pear-sized, but it can expand to the size of a watermelon. When you aren’t pregnant, it’s 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. You Can Have More Than One Uterus

Yup, that’s right! Some women are born with more than one of this organ. Although very rare, some women do have uterus didelphys, a congenital condition where two distinct uteruses develop (this was even 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. 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. And 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 affect your period or fertility. But sometimes it’s a symptom of another condition, like endometriosis or an infection.

4. 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 affects your hormone levels, because fat cells have high levels of estrogen, and estrogen increases your risk of this kind of cancer. And those high estrogen levels may also have a link to fibroid development.

5. You Can Avoid Menopause and 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. Or if you’re living with endometriosis, you may be prescribed Lupron, which could send you into premature menopause.

But removing your uterus or inducing menopause 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. And, as always, we invite you to schedule a consultation with our team of fibroid experts. That way, you’ll be able to make an informed decision when choosing treatment options.

Sources: cdc.gov

What you Need to Know about Fibroids, Menopause and Cancer

Why do fibroids, menopause and cancer risk go together? Let’s explore that connection today! 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. What’s clear is that between 40 and 80% of women will develop fibroids in their life. And that certain factors increase your risk. These include starting your period early, too much caffeine or alcohol, hormonal fluctuations, obesity, poor diet and race. (Black women are three times more likely than white women to develop fibroids!)

So, that’s what we know about getting fibroids. And now, we 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.

woman researching online

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. That could be problematic, because of the cancer risks involved with entering menopause. (More on that in a minute.)

But, new scientific evidence shows that untreated fibroids raise your risk for breast cancer. In fact, according to data from a new Taiwanese study, women with fibroids have a 35% breast cancer rate than women without these growths. Of course, that’s a scary statistic, but here’s some good news. Even though women with fibroids are more likely to get breast cancer, they’re less likely to die from it.

Fibroids and Breast Cancer Risk

What’s behind this rise in breast cancer risk for women with fibroids? We’re not exactly sure. But it seems to be connected to your hormones. Because researchers now think that certain hormonal imbalances that trigger fibroid growth could also trigger breast cancer development.

Still, this doesn’t explain why women with fibroids are less likely to die from breast cancer. Now, we don’t have a solid answer to that question. But it seems that women with fibroids may detect their cancer earlier. (Perhaps because of more frequent doctor visits.) And that fact improves survival rates.

Of course, even when detected early on, breast cancer is a devastating disease. For that reason, treating your fibroids could be an important way to lower your risk for this type of cancer. But if you decide to treat them by surgically removing 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 Fibroids, 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.

Sources: International Journal of Women’s Health, The Mayo Clinic, Journal of Scientific Reports, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Oncotarget

These 2 Factors Delay Fibroids Diagnosis

Sometimes, it’s hard to get your fibroids diagnosis. Often, women with uterine fibroids develop symptoms. These include long, heavy periods; weight gain; bloating; constipation and pelvic pain. But what if you already experienced many of those symptoms, because you were carrying extra weight? Or because of other conditions? 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.

A Familiar Story

Nkem Osian is a Nigerian American who spent months living with heavy periods. She told Verywell Health that she waited to see her doctor because, “Talking about reproductive health was always taboo. Although I knew that my mother and sisters had experienced heavy periods, it wasn’t something that we ever really discussed. So when my periods started changing in my late twenties, I felt like it was just part of being female.”

Sadly, like Tina, Nkem delayed seeking help for her symptoms. Even though, she says, “I was bleeding for two weeks at a time, sometimes with significant spotting in between cycles. There were many times when I would bleed through my clothes on the train from my home in New Jersey to my office in New York. It was humiliating, but what could I do? That was just my life.”

Even worse? Nkem was passing large clots. And, while we tell patients that clots bigger than a quarter are a sign of concern, Nkem’s were even larger. She says, “They were the size of my fist and very painful to pass.” Still, she waited to see her doctor. So that, by the time she made an appointment, she was told, “You have a blood level not conducive to life.”

Clearly, at that point, Nkem’s doctor knew she needed help. But that’s not always the case. In fact, some women feel ignored by their physicians. In fact, a recent survey from the Fibroid Foundation found that 37% of women surveyed needed to see two or three different doctors before getting a fibroid diagnosis. Even worse? 15% of the women needed to see as many as five doctors before diagnosis. And a shocking 7% saw over five doctors before finding out what was wrong. Obviously, that can delay your fibroid diagnosis. (And treatment!)

Brush Offs from Doctors Delay Fibroids Diagnosis

An IUD or birth control with fibroids can help heavy periods

That was the case for LaToya Dwight, who also spent years living with fibroid symptoms. Every day, she faced fatigue or bloating. Some days brought painful sex, others saw cramping and constipation. But, despite seeing the same OB-GYN for 12 years, fibroids never entered the conversation. Until she went to get her IUD removed. And her doctor couldn’t locate the device inside her uterus!

After the Fibroids Diagnosis: Finding Answers

For Tina, answers came when she got thin, and 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.

For LaToya, answers came in a different way. When her OB ordered an ultrasound to find the missing IUD, the technician asked her about her fibroids and symptoms. But the problem was, that was the first time anyone told her that she had these growths!

Once LaToya got back to her OB’s office, the only guidance she received was to get a hysterectomy. But, unlike Tina, LaToya still had fibroid treatment options. At first, she tried lifestyle changes and eating to help her fibroids. Then, through research, she found out about UFE, and found her minimally-invasive solution.

And Nkem? Well, initially, her doctor found one large fibroid. And put her on birth control to try and manage symptoms. But she developed more fibroids. So, now, she’s exploring treatment options instead of managing her symptoms. And she’s part of The White Dress project, to help ease the path for other women with fibroids.

Recognizing Fibroid Symptoms

Luckily, LaToya got a happy ending. But 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.

Or, if your doctor tells you to get a hysterectomy, get a second opinion and do your research! Because the earlier you treat fibroids, the more options that will be available for your treatment. And please remember: we welcome all women to our Houston fibroid treatment practice for second opinion treatment consultations. So schedule your appointment today!

Sources: DailymailHealthline

 

Here’s Why Congress Must Pass the Fibroid Bill

Just before she made history as the first female VP, 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. Which is why part of the bill includes funding for community fibroid education.

Recently, Illinois Congresswoman Robin Kelly shared her thoughts on the bill’s importance. She said, “Health education is an empowerment tool for women to ensure that they can make informed health decisions that lead to a better life, physically, mentally, and emotionally. If women have more information, they can make better decisions about their own health.”

That’s even more important since 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. And, as we know, when fibroid pain is severe, it can throw women’s lives off track. Going to school or work can become increasingly difficult. Which is something we all want to change.

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.

Recently, Dr. John C Lipman of the Free from Fibroids Foundation spoke about the need to pass this bill. He sees this education bill as the only way to stop the numerous, avoidable, hysterectomies for fibroids. He says, “One aggressive driver of the excessive number of unnecessary hysterectomies for uterine fibroids is the significant resources and influence that the pharmaceutical and surgical device manufacturers have on physicians and hospitals to perpetuate this “status quo” of hysterectomy.”

This push is even worse, he says, because “I see patients every day who are suffering from fibroids and don’t want a hysterectomy. They simply want their life back. Hysterectomies take away a woman’s ability to bear children, but also do more to a woman’s body after the surgical wounds heal.

It’s time to challenge the outdated practice of performing life-changing, unnecessary hysterectomy without first considering much safer, less expensive, and less invasive non-surgical options like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE).”

For those reasons, Dr. Lipman says, “Congress has an opportunity to help in this fight against fibroids and unnecessary hysterectomies and take an important step toward empowering and supporting women by passing the bipartisan Stephanie Tubbs Jones Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act of 2021 (S. 2444/H.R. 2007). This overdue legislation will provide research to try to find out where fibroids come from and how to prevent them and best treat them.”

Houston Fibroid Treatment Options

Today, we join in that call. And we thank Vice President Harris, Representative Clarke and all the women and organizations who advance fibroid awareness. Now, we invite you to explore all your fibroid treatment options before settling on an invasive surgery like a hysterectomy. And schedule an appointment with our Houston area fibroid specialists to see if you’re a candidate for UFE.

Sources: Yahoo!Life, Refinery 29

#WCW: Greenleaf Star learns 4 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.

Recently, Greenleaf star Deborah Joy Winans announced her pregnancy after a fibroids journey. Just a year before announcing her pregnancy, Winans’ doctors discovered she had eight large fibroids. While she was considering her treatment options, she also learned she was pregnant.

Right away, she learned this could be a problem. Winans told Essence magazine, “When [the doctor] started to tell me the things that will happen in my body because of the fibroids and the things that the baby might face, I just was like, ‘Okay, this is really, really serious. ”

Just months later, Winans wound up in the ER with terrible pain and vomiting. There, she learned that degenerating fibroids were responsible for her misery. Next, she needed a surgical procedure to close her cervix, which was opening too soon. Following that procedure, bed rest was in order. So, today she says she’s simply hoping to carry her baby closer to her due date. “As long as I can get to 28 [weeks]… [my doctor] knows that [the baby will] be good and healthy if he came that early. So, 28 is the goal.”

Of course, delivering her baby isn’t ideal. But pre-term labor isn’t the only way fibroids affect pregnancy. In fact, studies suggest, they could also impact your health in ways that don’t involve your growing fetus.

Continue reading “#WCW: Greenleaf Star learns 4 Ways Fibroids Can Impact Pregnancy”

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