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Get to know the symptoms, myths and treatments for uterine fibroids.
By Lauren Glenn
Did you know that more than 70% of female patients will develop a uterine fibroid in their lifetime? That’s why it’s important to know the risks, symptoms and treatments associated with uterine fibroids.
Put simply, a fibroid is a muscular tumor in the wall of the uterus. Also referred to as a leiomyoma or myoma, common symptoms include heavy bleeding, fullness in the lower stomach, lower back pain and/or reproductive problems. Women ages 30 to 40 years old are at increased risk for developing them, and research suggests that African American women develop fibroids at a higher rate than white women, according to the Office on Women’s Health.
Unfortunately, uterine fibroids impact millions of people worldwide, and most lack awareness of the wide array of treatment options. For example, many believe that a hysterectomy is the only treatment for uterine fibroids, but modern options include a variety of minimally invasive alternatives, said Sangeeta Senapati, MD, a NorthShore gynecologist and specialist in pelvic pain and advanced laparoscopic procedures. Nonsurgical approaches for patients with mild symptoms may include “watchful waiting,” nonprescription over-the-counter medication to reduce pain and/or hormone treatments such as birth control pills to help shrink the size of your fibroids and minimize symptoms.
If removal is necessary, uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive procedure involving the injection of embolizing agents to block off the blood supply fueling the growth of a fibroid. The uterus and ovaries remain unaffected.
Fibroids may also be removed with a myomectomy. This involves the removal of fibroids only without affecting your uterus, which may be important for future family planning.
A hysterectomy involves the complete removal of the uterus and along with it your fibroids. Leading to the permanent end of your menstrual cycles and ability to naturally bear children, a hysterectomy is not for everyone but is one option for treating fibroids. To connect with other women on this topic, the White Dress Project is a nonprofit that aims to increase visibility of the uterine fibroid epidemic and provide community to women who are impacted. Its name refers to how women with fibroids will avoid white dresses due to the heavy bleeding associated with their condition. For the women who founded the organization, “the ‘white dress’ is not a fashion statement, but…an emblem of hope and strength.”
If you are concerned about your risk for fibroids or are experiencing symptoms, talk with your doctor or reach out to our NorthShore team of board-certified physicians with the Center for Pelvic Health for gynecology, pelvic pain and minimally invasive surgery.