Category: Treatment Options

#WCW: Equal Fibroid Care for Black Women

It’s really hard to find equal fibroid care for black women. That’s something Kimberly Wilson, our Woman Crush Wednesday nominee, learned the hard way. But, after her healthcare struggle, she’s making it easier to find equal care for black women. And, together with efforts from other groups, Wilson is leveling the playing healthcare playing field. Which is why we’re sharing her story today, and naming her our #WCW, woman crush of the week.

Getting a Fibroid Diagnosis Kimberly Wilson demands equal fibroid care for black women

In 2017, Wilson was diagnosed with fibroids. But, even though she had many fibroid symptoms, getting that diagnosis was really hard. She told Essence magazine, “Over a period of six months, I visited four different providers—all of whom were White men. Two completely dismissed my pain and trauma, while the other two stated that a hysterectomy was my only option. It wasn’t until finding a Black physician—over 100 miles away, that I received the culturally competent care that I needed and deserved.”

After her experience, Wilson wanted to make it easier for women of color to access quality healthcare. And part of that, she realized, meant these women needed help finding culturally sensitive healthcare providers.

That’s when she created HUED, a website that connects patients with medical professionals that specifically understand their cultural, physical and mental-health needs. Her goal? To help people of color access healthcare providers they could trust. Physicians who would listen to their needs. And never dismiss their reports of painful symptoms.

Today, that platform is helping black women access equal fibroid care. And care for many other health conditions. So we applaud Wilson’s efforts. Plus, we’re happy to report, she’s not alone in this fight.

Say Goodbye Fibroids

The White Dress Project, one of our favorite organizations, is also joining the fight. They’ve partnered with Acessa Health Inc. on the Goodbye Fibroids initiative. It’s goal? To unite women, doctors and political leaders in raising awareness of and improving care for women living with fibroids.

They’ve made presentations at the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference. And they’ve spent time discussing how women of different races don’t receiving the same quality of fibroid care.

As Acessa Health CEO Kim Rodriguez noted, “Unfortunately, there is a well-established racial barrier to women receiving less invasive alternatives to hysterectomy.”

In other words, black women have a much higher risk of developing fibroids. But they are much less likely to receive information about the full range of fibroid treatment options. Especially about minimally invasive procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization.

The facts are clear (and upsetting.) Among women who treated their fibroids with hysterectomies, African American women were less likely to receive a minimally invasive surgery compared to white women. They were also 40% more likely to develop complications. And nearly three times as likely to have an extended hospital stay. Plus, three times as likely to die after their procedures.

While these are statistics for hysterectomies, they don’t even begin to explore other fibroid treatment options. Which likely means that women aren’t even being informed about hysterectomy alternatives. In other words, equal fibroid care for black women is still a distant dream.

Working to Create Equal Fibroid Care for Black Women

Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project, also spoke to the Black Caucus. She said, “As a community we need to begin to address and change the clear, systematic and structural defect within the US healthcare system. [It] disproportionately pushes women of color toward the most invasive option, which is hysterectomy.”

Of course, for Valbrun, this cause is very personal. As she recently shared on her platform at CNN.com, “I’ve heard tales of women with light periods—you know, the ones where you can play tennis or have brunch, like in a tampon commercial. But since I was 14, my menstrual cycles have been something to survive, not celebrate. And it was years until I found out the reason why: Just like my mother, I have uterine fibroids.”

Diagnosed later in life, the blows kept coming for Valbrun. When she and her new husband tried getting pregnant, her doctor said she had 27 fibroids, and “They advised me to look for a surrogate.” Now, fibroids can interfere with conception.  But Valbrun wasn’t willing to give up. Instead, she says, “I cried for days. Then I decided to get a second opinion.”

Luckily for Valbrun, at her next medical appointment, she learned, “there was still a chance” for her to conceive.  First, she removed those 27 fibroids via myomectomy. Five years later, she needed laparoscopic surgery to remove new growths. Recently, she chose to shave down an existing fibroid. And today she says, ” I’m still on my path to motherhood, and have experienced two failed embryo transfers. Now, with my uterus as clean as possible, we will try again.”

Help for Fibroids in Houston

As interventional radiologists in Houston, we stand with Wilson and Valbrun. We want all women to know their fibroid treatment options, and to keep their fertility options open. And we want black women to get equal care and attention from fibroid specialists.

To help that cause, we promote #FibroidFix. This is a campaign to make all women aware of all the available treatment options for fibroids. Particularly the ones that preserve their fertility and minimize the risk of surgical complications. Will you join us in spreading the word?

We invite you to reach out to us for more information about UFE. And we ask you to share this information with all your female friends. You’ll help us make better healthcare accessible to every woman in this country.

Sources: Essence Magazine, Acessa Health 

#WCW: Raquel K Finds an Alternative to Fibroid Surgery

So many women are looking for an alternative to fibroid surgery. After all, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that over 26 million women aged 15-50 have fibroids, and many need relief from painful symptoms. That’s why we often feature celebrity fibroid warriors as our Woman Crush Wednesday, hoping to spread awareness about other options. But this week we get to draw from our own patient pool. A few months ago, we welcomed Raquel K. to our Houston area fibroid practice; as she explains, she came to us because she was, “looking for an alternative to fibroid surgery.”

Like many African American women, Raquel was diagnosed with fibroids and was facing scary treatment options like surgical removal of her tumors or even of her uterus (hysterectomy.) When she discovered our practice and scheduled her first appointment, she says, “Dr. Fox and his team took time to explain the UFE procedure and made me feel very comfortable.”

What is UFE?

UFE (Uterine Fibroid Embolization) is a minimally invasive alternative fibroid treatment. It’s also an outpatient procedure, which means it usually won’t require an overnight hospital stay.

During treatment, our doctors insert a catheter through our patient’s femoral artery, in your upper thigh. Next, we guide the catheter to the uterine artery until we get close to your fibroid tumor. Finally, we inject an embolic substance into the catheter. The embolic material blocks the vessels around the fibroid, cutting off its blood and oxygen. Soon, your fibroids shrink. And, since the embolic material is permanently lodged in the blood vessels at the fibroid site, they don’t come back.

After Raquel successfully underwent her UFE procedure, she turned to our practice Facebook page to share her story. “My quality of life has improved greatly since my UFE and I am very happy with my results,” she revealed. So now, she’s part of the team helping spread the word about this alternative #FibroidFix. And, in our well-versed hashtag books, that earns her a spot on the #WCW list, as well!

Life After UFE: What to Expect

Right after your procedure, you can expect to experience mild cramping, similar to period symptoms. By the next day, you should be able to return to work. And two weeks later, you’ll be back to full normal activities.

And what about your fibroid symptoms? Here’s the great news. Like Raquel, your symptoms should dramatically improve or resolve completely. Take painful sex, for example. Studies show that, one year after UFE, almost 80% of women who chose this treatment saw significant boosts in the quality of their sex lives.

Now, what happens if you want to have a baby after having minimally invasive fibroid treatments? Well, we know that you can get pregnant following this procedure. And certain tweaks, like the limited embolization approach, may make conceiving and carrying a child easier later on. Still, there are remaining questions. So we suggest making a consultation appointment with our fibroid experts today if you’re considering UFE. Together, we can review your unique situation. Then, we’ll decide if UFE is the right alternative to fibroid surgery for your needs.

Learn Your Fibroid Risk, Diagnosis and Effect Info

When it comes to your health, it’s important to know your fibroid risk–plus what it means for your health if you get this diagnosis. Many women have heard about fibroids (benign tumors that develop in or on a woman’s uterus) but don’t know much more than the name. Here is our quick cheat sheet for really understanding these tumors:

What’s Your Fibroid Risk?

Before we get started, we have to be clear: we still don’t the exact reason why women get fibroids. But, thanks to recent studies, we do have a clearer picture of what raises women’s fibroid risk.

First, we know that race plays a major role in your fibroid risk. While any woman can develop fibroids, the ones at highest risk: have a family history, are Black or Hispanic, and/or have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). In fact, according to a recent study in the BJOG Journal, black women have a two-threefold higher fibroid risk. That’s why about 70% of black women develop fibroids, according to the study. And it may be why European women have a lower fibroid risk than women in the U.S.: the racial mix in populations is very different.

Still, as more Caucasian women present with elevated BMIs, their fibroid risk has also increased. And we know, thanks to this study, 11 other factors that increase your fibroid risk. These include your age (risk decreases as you get older), premenopausal state, hypertension, family history and the time since your last birth. (Having more full-term pregnancies seems to decreases your fibroid risk. Breastfeeding could also impact your fibroid risk. That’s because your ovarian hormones decrease when you nurse. ) Smoking or consuming certain food additives or soybean milk may also increase your chances of getting fibroids.

In some cases, the use of oral contraceptives or the injectable contraceptive depot medroxyprogesterone acetate increased your fibroid risk. That’s not necessarily surprising, since we know that two things make fibroids grow: hormones, especially estrogen, and blood supply.

But, while some forms of birth control increase your fibroid risk, we can also often control fibroid growth with birth control pills. And, we can shrink the tumors by cutting off their blood supply using a procedure called UFE (uterine fibroid embolization.)

Genetic Fibroid Risks

We are constantly discovering other fibroid risk factors, and recently, scientists from the University of Helsinki uncovered a genetic link. After monitoring 728 women with 2263 tumors, researchers grouped their fibroids by  genetic variants.

For most women, these fibroids fell neatly into one of three. But a number of the fibroids didn’t fit into previously identified categories. Instead, they showed variations that cells’ histone activity. (Histones help shape and control genes.activity.)

After seeing this variation, the researchers discovered an inherited fibroid risk. Women with certain genetic mutations have a higher risk of developing tumors.  As a result, with more research, women with these mutations could receive counseling and regular fibroid screening. In that way, it could be easier to detect and diagnose any developing growths in their earliest stages.

How Can I Confirm my Fibroid Diagnosis? heavy periods change your life

If you are experiencing fibroid symptoms like heavy periods, pelvic pain, incontinence or constipation, your doctor may check you for fibroids. Usually, you’ll be diagnosed with a pelvic exam and a pelvic sonogram. You may need a transvaginal sonogram to determine if the fibroid has affected your uterine lining.

As soon as you’ve been diagnosed, you’ll need to consider your treatment options. And remember that you do have options: not all fibroid diagnoses will end in surgery. In fact, there are minimally invasive fibroid treatments that can help you find relief. But the option you choose will largely depend on the type of symptoms you’re currently experiencing.

How will Fibroids Impact my Life?

Once you know you have fibroids, you have lots of options. If you aren’t bothered by symptoms, you may just monitor the tumor(s). With fibroids that are small, birth control, diet and exercise may keep them from causing you pain. But if pregnancy is important to you, the location of your fibroids will also be important. Fibroids that grow in the uterine cavity or block the fallopian tubes may affect your fertility.

If symptoms or infertility send you in search of relief, it’s important to research all your treatment options. While some doctors may recommend surgery (myomectomy or hysterectomy), we like to explore less invasive options. To learn more about non-surgical fibroid treatments schedule a consult today with our Houston area fibroid experts.

Sources: International Journal of Fertility and SterilityBJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 

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. That’s why our own Dr. Eric Hardee is spreading the word about why black women have an increased fibroid risk.

Sadly, the bad news doesn’t end there. Because, when they do develop, 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. 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.

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

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”

#WCW: How Olivia Beat Painful Sex with Fibroids

As Houston based fibroid specialists, we know that painful sex with fibroids can be challenging. That’s why we started our Woman Crush Wednesday series. We want to celebrate women who are pushing past fibroids, and share their stories. In doing so, we hope to give hope and strength to all of you who are still on a fibroid journey.

Now, fibroids can cause many painful symptoms, including heavy periods and severe cramps. You shouldn’t consider these normal parts of your period. In fact, if your period makes you miss work, or lasts longer than seven days, that’s a sign you need to talk to your doctor about fibroids. The same is true if you have to change your pad or tampon before two hours pass.

But one symptom can be especially uncomfortable, and even more difficult to discuss: painful sex. When you have fibroids, the location of your non-cancerous tumors can make sexual penetration very uncomfortable. And this can take a toll on your intimate relationships.

With treatment, you can address your fibroids and resolve this pain. But even before seeking treatment, there are ways to connect with your partner without causing you to experience pain. Recently, we came across a letter from one woman, Olivia, describing exactly how she dealt with her fibroid-related sexual pain. And to help all of you out, we’re sharing her story, and making her our Woman Crush of the Week!

Rediscovering Sex after Fibroids Results after UFE

In her letter to Sex Talk, a column in The Observer, Olivia writes “Somewhere along the way, I developed fibroids…The sex just stopped being good.” But rather than giving up on her intimate relationship with her husband, Olivia decided to make some changes.

She says, “In the process of trying to regain my strength and deal with anaemia brought on by fibroids, I had to check my diet. I tried to balance what I ate and my doctor recommended some supplements. That seemed to help, but it was still not that good.”

Still, Olivia wasn’t ready to give up on this important part of her marriage. Next, she writes, came the COVID-19 lock down. Using this time to her advantage, Olivia says,  “I decided to take a walk in the evenings. The walks gradually turned into regular exercise and eventually culminated into proper workouts…But that is where the switch was. I felt better with each day of exercise, lost weight and became less grumpy.

In a few days, my energy levels had gone up… I did household chores without complaining. My back stopped hurting – I was feeling much better!”

Soon, her personal health improvements shifted to her intimate relationship. She writes, “Around that time, my husband’s language changed..[He] then initiated the lovemaking, although he seldom did. We both could not believe the outcome. The referee in my brain ticked off against all standards on his checklist. If it were a contest, he would have earned 99.9 per cent. We were shocked!”

Fibroid Treatment for Improved Intimacy

Olivia is very lucky: like many women, her fibroid symptoms improved with exercise and weight loss. but, even though her lifestyle changes gave her symptom relief, she is still living with fibroids. Which means she could experience new or worsening symptoms at any point.

For lasting fibroid relief, the best option is fibroid treatment. In our practice, we offer a minimally invasive option, Uterine Fibroid Embolization, which shrinks your fibroid tumors without surgery. Many women choose UFE because it is effective, and you typically don’t need to stay overnight in a hospital or deal with a long procedure recovery period. Hashtag fibroid fix

Other women may prefer options such as myomectomy, a surgery to remove individual fibroid treatments. And some may require a hysterectomy, the surgical removal of your uterus, although we always consider this the treatment of last resort. You should never get a hysterectomy unless it is medically necessary, as this procedure will impact your overall health in so many ways.

We know that fibroid symptoms are challenging, and that it can be equally challenging to choose the right treatment plan. That’s why we’re here to help, even during the COVID-19 resurgence. Reach out and schedule a fibroid consultation with our specialists. If you prefer, we can being the process remotely, using our secure Telemedicine platform to begin your fibroid consultation.

Just remember: help is available. Like Olivia, you can take control of your intimate life, even with fibroids. And you can begin your recovery journey with us, right now, and put those symptoms in your past.

#WCW: Black Women 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. In comparison, 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. Which is 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.

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

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: Healthy Woman, Chicago Defender

Raising Fibroid Awareness in Houston, One Dress at a Time

July was National Fibroid Awareness in several cities and states, and Houston has joined that group now, which is something we’re very excited about. So, in recognition of her efforts, we honor Tamika Gray Valburn, founder of The White Dress Project. For years, Tanika suffered with fibroids. Her mom lost two sets of twins because of her own fibroids. But even with the family history, Tamika didn’t make the connection to her own diagnosis!

In fact, Valburn’s fibroids were diagnosed in her late teens. At that point, she’d experienced years of painful symptoms. “You just think it will skip a generation,” she’s explained in interviews. “When you’re young, you’re not thinking it will be your story as well.” But, like so many women, Valburn discovered that fibroids do tend to run in families.

Living with Fibroid Symptoms

Because Valburn’s fibroids triggered heavy periods, she “learn[ed] how to pad myself [to keep from leaking through clothes.] I know the whole formula—what kind of underwear to wear, what kind of tights, what kind of Spanx. I’ve tried and tested everything. It’s become a way of life.”

Eventually, Tanika surgically removed 27 fibroids from her uterus. After her recovery, she wanted to help other women. So, in 2014, Tanika earned a Georgia state representative’s support in declaring July as Fibroid Awareness Month. The goal? Helping women get the crucial health information they need.

But she didn’t stop there. Tanika realized that she never bought white clothing. She said, “It’s a simple thing. Like, who cares, why not just wear black? But I love clothes, and the fact that I had to sacrifice wearing white for these benign tumors—I wasn’t feeling it.”

The White Dress Project


That same year, Tanika founded the White Dress Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting fibroid awareness, supporting research, and bringing together a community of women who work to empower one another.  After all, this is crucial. According to the CDC, one in three women will have a hysterectomy by the time she turns 60. But, according to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 18.3% of those hysterectomies aren’t medically necessary. So, why do women have these surgeries? They don’t know about other options!

That’s where Tanika and her project want to make a difference. And they’ve made white dresses their symbol, as it signified a major milestone in Tanika’s recovery: the moment she could rock a white dress without any fear. (Because minimally invasive surgery helped resolve her painful fibroid symptoms.) Now, the white dress has become a symbol of strength and power to other women dealing with fibroids. And it’s just one more step in the crucial fight to take control of women’s menstrual health issues. Especially for Black women like Tanika, who are disproportionately at risk for avoidable hysterectomies. And for the serious complications that often come with open surgery. 

As doctors involved in the daily battle against fibroids, we salute Tanika, our forever #WCW. We invite all women who are dealing with fibroids to slip on their white dresses and take control of their health by learning more about UFE, a minimally invasive treatment for fibroids!

Sources: The White Dress Project, Healio Primary Care

Can I Slow Fibroid Growth?

If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine tumors, you may want to learn how to slow fibroid growth. After all, many women with fibroids have questions. Why did I get this kind of tumor? How fast will it grow? What can I do to slow down or stop the growth in my fibroids?

While we don’t know what causes women to develop fibroids, we have some clues about what increases your fibroid risk. In the past, people thought that vaginal infections could increase your risk for fibroids. But recent studies suggest that bacterial vaginosis or other infections don’t increase your odds of developing fibroids.

With one theory disproved, others remain. It’s clear that Black women develop fibroids more often than women of other races. And, while research is ongoing, we think that could be due to chemicals in hair products targeting Black women, as well as other environmental factors.

We also have an understanding of what these tumors are and what factors may increase your risk of developing fibroids. We also know certain factors that affect fibroid growth. To help you gain a better understanding, let’s start at the beginning, with a basic explanation of fibroids.

This x-ray reveals a fairly large uterine fibroid

What are Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in the wall of your uterus. Fibroids can grow alone or in clusters; they vary in size, from microscopically small to rare cases where they grow to the size of fully-developed fetus.

Fibroid symptoms can include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Painful periods
  • Bloating in the pelvic region
  • Lower back pain
  • Painful sex
  • Frequent need to pee

What Can Speed Up Fibroid Growth?

While your genes will play a role in how quickly fibroids grow, hormones like estrogen and progesterone also affect the growth of these tumors. Without these two hormones, fibroids are unable to grow which is why, in the past, causing a woman to experience menopause was considered the only cure for fibroids. Thankfully, we now know better and can offer women less dramatic treatment options.

How Big Will My Fibroids Become?

It’s difficult to know how big a fibroid tumor will become–growth varies from person to person, predict how big a fibroid will grow or what causes a fibroid to grow rapidly. In some cases, fibroids even disappear without treatment. This however, is not common: most fibroids will grow larger unless you opt for medical intervention.

So, just how big will your fibroids become? Honestly, the size limit is based only on your body’s ability to expand. Fibroids can stretch and enlarge your uterus to accommodate their own growth. In fact, some fibroids get so big that you appear to be in the second trimester of pregnancy!

In extreme cases, fibroids will grow so large that doctors can only treat them with surgery. For this reason, it’s important to begin researching fibroid treatment options as soon as you receive a diagnosis.

Can I Slow Fibroid Growth?

Certain steps, like adopting  a fibroid-friendly diet, may slow the growth of these tumors. Research suggests that dairy products like milk, cheese and ice cream may inhibit fibroid development. Green tea has also been shown to slow fibroid growth and, in some cases, even kill off existing fibroid cells.

For some women, the hormones in certain forms of birth control can help slow fibroid development.

When it comes to interventions that simply slow down fibroid development, there are no guarantees…that’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that we have better treatment options available. Instead of slowing fibroid growth, interventional radiologists like Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee are able to use a method known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization to cut off the fibroid’s supply of blood and oxygen. This minimally invasive treatment causes fibroids to shrink and, eventually, die. Want to know if you’re a good candidate for UFE? Just reach out to our Houston area team and we’ll be happy to set you up with a comprehensive consultation.

Warning: Surgically Induced Menopause Hurts Your Heart

When you undergo hysterectomy, we say you’ve gone through surgically induced menopause. Now, when you’re living with fibroids, your main concern is treating your symptoms. You just want to feel like yourself again. As soon as possible. But sometimes, in your rush to find a cure, you don’t think about the consequences of the treatment option you select. Now, studies point out the toll that may take on your long term health. Especially if you choose hysterectomy, an option that leads to surgically induced menopause.

Surgically Induced Menopauses and Heart Disease Risk

So many women with fibroids choose to treat their tumors by having a hysterectomy. With this choice, you remove your uterus, automatically putting yourself into menopause. And once you enter menopause, especially if you do it before you turn 40, you’re at greater risk of osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke. Serious woman

Those conditions are all pretty scary, but they don’t even pain your complete risk picture. In fact, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School, your risk goes up even more if your early menopause is brought on by surgery.

To reach this conclusion, researchers spent six years studying 144,260 women between the ages of 40 and 69. At the beginning of the study, the women completed a questionnaire about the details of their reproductive health. And, throughout the study period, researchers noticed the rate of coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and narrowing of the arteries for all the women. They also checked up on the women’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels, rates of diabetes, and any other health diagnoses.

What they found was startling. All women who entered menopause before turning 40 had higher rates of cardiovascular problems. But the women whose menopause was trigger by surgery were even more likely to develop heart health issues. And that’s not all: having an early hysterectomy triggers many other problems. Which is something Olivia Lichtenstein recently opened up about in the Daily Mail Online.

Adapting to the New You

While there is no shame in choosing a surgery for pain relief, Lichtenstein writes that she felt ashamed to discuss her procedure. “The onset of menopause shrouds women in a cloak of invisibility; add to that a hysterectomy and the folds of this cloak thicken and feel ever more inescapable,” she says.

Like so many women, Lichtenstein scheduled her hysterectomy to relieve fibroid pain. And, she was 55, had children and wasn’t worried about surgically induced menopause. (She’d naturally entered menopause a few years earlier.) Still, she says, it left her feeling like she was “missing the most vital part of [herself as a]women.”

Of course, for women who haven’t yet completed their families, the emotional toll is much worse. Now, fibroids may impact your fertility. Or your ability to carry pregnancy to term. But hysterectomy is often not the answer. In fact, many hysterectomies could be avoided, if you only explore other treatment options.

For some women, hysterectomies are medically necessary—especially if you are also dealing with a cancer diagnosis. But, for many women with fibroids, non-surgical treatments like Uterine Fibroid Embolization will be equally effective—and cause fewer additional health problems. So, before you choose hysterectomy, we urge you to explore all your fibroid treatment options. Especially the ones that won’t send you into menopause. And we invite you to schedule a consultation with our Houston area fibroid specialists today.

 

Sources: Journal of the American Medical Association

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