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What To Do When Fibroids Get in the Way

“Fibroids.” You’ll likely hear your OB-GYN throw out the word during your well woman exam, since most women have them at some point in their lives.

Let’s talk about what fibroids are and how they might affect you.

What Are Fibroids?

We tend to panic and think “cancer!” when we hear the word fibroids, but try not to be alarmed. Fibroids, also called leiomyomas, are merely a jumble of muscle and connective tissue that grow in your uterus and/or outside your uterus.

Put your mind at ease:

  • Fibroids differ in size. Yours might be as petite as a sunflower seed or as large as a Ruby Red grapefruit.
  • You might never know your fibroid is there. If it doesn’t bother you, ignore it.
  • Nearly all fibroids are unrelated to cancer. Fewer than one in every 1,000 are cancerous — those are called leiomyosarcoma. If you have regular fibroids, that does not mean you’re more likely to also grow a cancerous one.
  • You’ll probably have at least one fibroid eventually. Statistics vary, but you’re most likely to develop fibroids after your 35th birthday and before you complete menopause. About 70 percent of American women have them by age 50. For African-American women, that number rises to 80 percent. And Black women are more likely to develop fibroids earlier, even during their teenage years.

How Fibroids Might Affect You

Depending on where your fibroid is located, and its size, it might cause you discomfort or other issues. While your OB-GYN might discover your fibroid during an internal exam, request an appointment if you have any of these symptoms:

  • You feel discomfort. If you feel pressure inside your body, or notice a citrus-size lump, check it out.
  • Your periods have gotten much heavier. Or your cramping has intensified. Both can be signs of fibroids.
  • It’s hard to urinate. A fibroid can block your flow when you go to the bathroom.
  • Intercourse hurts. A bump that blocks a penis’ way? That can be painful.

How To Get Rid of Fibroids

If your fibroid doesn’t bother you, don’t bother it. If you have one, you’re more likely than not to grow more of them — but that still might be no issue at all. Chances are your fibroids will shrink once you complete menopause.

If it is a problem, your doctor might do an imaging test such as an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI to confirm the size and location. Then, you might receive one of the following treatments:

  • Uterine artery embolization. This is an outpatient procedure that cuts off the fibroid’s blood supply. It’s usually performed by an interventional radiologist.
  • Drug therapy. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogs, known as GnRHas, can stop your body from producing estrogen, which in turn can shrink fibroids.
  • Myomectomy. During this outpatient surgery, your OB-GYN will remove the fibroid from your uterus without damaging the organ.
  • Ablation. Doctors essentially zap the fibroid, through your skin, by finding it with an ultrasound and targeting it with a beam of energy that will heat the fibroid and demolish it.
  • Hysteroscopic  resection. This outpatient procedure uses a long tube to empty the fibroid until only the shell remains.
  • Hysterectomy. If you’re done having babies and your fibroid is causing extreme discomfort, you might have your uterus removed.

Some studies indicate that changing your diet might keep fibroids from developing. Ask your doctor about taking Vitamin D supplements, eating a lot of vegetables, and reducing your intake of red meats and alcoholic beverages.

If your fibroid bothers you, take care of it. That will improve your quality of life.

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