We hear the term fibroids quite a lot, but what are fibroids anyway?  This article will provide information about fibroids.

Fibroids are firm, compact tumors that are made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that develop in the uterus.  Roughly 20% to 50% of women of reproductive age have fibroids, although not all are diagnosed. Some estimates state that up to 30% to 77% of women will develop fibroids sometime during their childbearing years, although only about one-third of these fibroids are large enough to be detected by a health care provider during a physical examination.

According to UCLA health, as much as 90% of fibroids are benign tumors. In most cases, fibroids do not increase a woman’s chance of developing uterine cancer.  Fibroids range in size from a pea to a grapefruit.  It is very interesting to note that women who are menopausal, obese and of African-American heritage are more prone to developing fibroids. There is no known causal factor as to why we are prone to fibroids. Some studies indicate that women who had given birth to at least two live births were 50% less likely to develop fibroids versus their counterparts who never had children. With so many of us with fibroids, more research needs to be done to determine causal factors. 

Some women who have fibroids have no symptoms, or have only mild symptoms, while other women have more severe, disruptive symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids; however, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms of uterine fibroids may include the following: heavy or prolonged menstrual periods, abnormal bleeding between menstrual periods, pelvic pain (caused as the tumor presses on pelvic organs), frequent urination, low back pain, pain during intercourse, and or a firm mass, often located near the middle of the pelvis, which can be felt by the health care provider.  In some cases, the heavy or prolonged menstrual periods, or the abnormal bleeding between periods, can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, which also requires treatment.

Fibroids can be diagnosed by the following tests:  a complete medical history and physical and pelvic and/or abdominal examination, diagnostic procedures for uterine fibroids may include the following: x-ray, transvaginal ultrasound (also called ultrasonography). An ultrasound test using a small instrument, called a transducer, that is placed in the vagina, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)(a non-invasive procedure that produces a two-dimensional view of an internal organ or structure), hysterosalpingography( X-ray examination of the uterus and fallopian tubes that uses dye and is often performed to rule out tubal obstruction), hysteroscopy(visual examination of the canal of the cervix and the interior of the uterus using a viewing instrument (hysteroscope) inserted through the vagina), endometrial biopsy(a procedure in which a sample of tissue is obtained through a tube which is inserted into the uterus), and or a blood test (to check for iron-deficiency anemia if heavy bleeding is caused by the tumor).

Once diagnosis is confirmed, treatment could result in any of the following options: hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the entire uterus), conservative surgical therapy (a procedure called a myomectomy, fibroids are removed, uterus is left intact to enable a future pregnancy), hormone therapy (to shrink the fibroids), uterine artery embolization (UAE is a newer minimally-invasive (without a large abdominal incision) technique. The arteries supplying blood to the fibroids are identified, and then embolized (blocked off). The embolization cuts off the blood supply to the fibroids, thus shrinking them. Health care providers continue to evaluate the long-term implications of this procedure on fertility and regrowth of the fibroid tissue, and or anti-inflammatory painkillers (for pelvic pain or discomfort).

I hope this article shed some light on fibroids, a condition that affects a preponderance of black women.  If you or someone you know has fibroids, get it checked out by your healthcare provider.

This article is dedicated to Samantha Watson and friends.  Thanks Sam for all that you do.


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