INside Story

INside story: Explaining fibroids, treatment options

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Talking about reproductive health is still often considered taboo, especially when you start getting into the specifics around female reproductive health.
But experts said not talking about it may be the reason why so many people suffer in silence.

Data estimates about 80% of women have uterine fibroids, but many may never know or have any symptoms. For the women who do, fibroids can have devastating impacts.

After generations of silence, women are taking the reins and opening up about their reproductive health and highlighting what can be done.

The human body is a gift. It helps us move through life. But at times, it may seem to betray us when it doesn’t work quite as it should, or when it develops something that shouldn’t be there like fibroids.

“Fibroids are benign, meaning non-cancerous growth, that develop in a woman’s uterus,” said Leslie Foxlow, OBGYN at Axia Women’s Health southside.

Fibroids range in sizes from a pea to a melon. Multiples can grow at the same time. The impact on the body can run the gamut. It can be diagnosed through exams, ultrasound and getting an MRI.

Even though women have battled fibroids for years, doctors say it’s still not clear what causes them to grow or why Black women are two to three times more likely to develop them.

“We do see that it tends to run in families, said Foxlow. “So, if a woman’s mother or sister or other family members have been affected, she is more likely to be affected with fibroids as well.”

Foxlow said it’s vital to talk more openly about this health problem. One common symptom to look out for: excessive blood lost and extended menstrual cycles.

“The volume of bleeding may be hard to quantify or describe or really understand what someone is experiencing it’s hard for them to describe it. But a lot of times we say if you were saturating a large pad in an hour or less that is likely abnormal.”

She said fibroids can impact fertility as they can grow to take up too much space. As the fibroids grow in and around your uterus, they can also put pressure on the bladder, and bowels, causing frequent urination, and constipation, among other things.

“Some women have very heavy periods that can affect your daily activities. We’ve seen women who have so much bleeding from their fibroids that they become anemic. Sometimes severely anemic and need a blood transfusion.”

For a time hysterectomy was the primary treatment option. There are now a few more options like uterine artery embolization, radiofrequency ablation, myomectomies and more.

“So does she want to keep her uterus and potentially be able to have children in the future.”

Foxlow said most women won’t notice changes to their health with fibroids immediately because it happens gradually. So it’s important to talk openly… so more women no longer suffer in silence.

Medical experts said it could also impact transgender men or non-binary people who may have a uterus.

Foxlow said leading a healthy active lifestyle can be beneficial. But when fibroids get too big, she’s not familiar with any data that says eating more healthy or taking any supplements will reduce their size enough to improve symptoms.

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