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July is Fibroid Awareness Month!
- Have you heard of Fibroid Awareness Month? How much do you know about uterine fibroids?
- Fibroids are benign growths that consist of smooth muscle cells and connective tissue.
- Fibroids can cause prolonged periods, spotting, pain, and if left untreated, infertility and interfere with sexual activity. Fibroids are common among women and can interfere with daily life. Fibroid Awareness Month brings recognition to this commonly underdiscussed concern in women’s health.
MPH, MSN, WHNP-BC
What is Fibroid Awareness Month?
July is Fibroid Awareness Month! I first heard of the term “fibroid” when I had my first women’s health appointment as a teenager many years ago.
I had no idea what it meant, and I didn’t realize many people experienced fibroids.
As I studied women’s health and became a women’s health nurse practitioner, I realized that fibroids are very common, yet very unknown to many people. For this Fibroid Awareness Month, I will answer common questions regarding fibroids.
Whether you have fibroids or just want to learn more, this post is for you!
What Are Fibroids?
Fibroids are benign (which also means non-cancerous) growths that consist of smooth muscle cells and connective tissue. Another term for fibroids is leiomyomas or uterine growths. Fibroids grow in the uterus.
Sometimes, fibroids can emerge as just one by itself or in a cluster. They also vary drastically in size with some as small as a fingernail to as big as a grapefruit.
In some cases, fibroids can grow into the uterine cavity or extend outside of the uterus.
How Common Are Fibroids?
It is estimated that approximately 20-50% of people with a uterus of reproductive age (ages 18-45) currently have fibroids. Fibroids are extremely common, where over 75% of all people with a uterus will develop fibroids between ages 18-45.
Even though fibroids are extremely common, they are also very unpredictable. Since they can be extremely small, go away on their own, and may not affect daily life, some people can live with a fibroid and never notice it.
Despite this, about one-third of fibroids are large enough to be detected by a health care provider during a physical exam.
What Causes Fibroids?
The exact cause of fibroids is unknown.
Some research suggests each fibroid emerges from an abnormal muscle cell in the uterus and multiplies rapidly when encountering estrogen. However, more research is needed to learn more about the definite cause for fibroids.
Who Is at Risk for Fibroids?
Risk factors may include:
- Family history of fibroids
- High blood pressure
Unfortunately, there is no singular risk factor for fibroids other than having a uterus.
It is important to note that Black women are more likely to develop fibroids than other women. There is no known specific reason for the high incidence of fibroids in Black women.
Symptoms of Fibroids
There are some people who do not experience symptoms with fibroids, depending on the location and size. However, those with larger fibroids or multiple fibroids can have really intense symptoms.
Some fibroid symptoms are:
- Heavy or prolonged periods (often lasting more than 5 days)
- Bleeding between periods (also known as spotting or unscheduled bleeding)
- Abdominal pain
- Pelvic pain that can radiate to the lower back
- Trouble urinating
- Severe constipation
What Happens if Fibroids Are Left Untreated?
Sometimes, fibroids go away on their own. Other times, they can grow. Sometimes, they go away and come back. Fibroids are REALLY unpredictable and vary from person to person.
This is why fibroid awareness month exists.
If fibroids are left untreated, they can interfere with fertility and sexual activity. Some people with fibroids report pain during sex, trouble getting pregnant, or chronic pelvic pain.
The standard to determine if someone has fibroids is a pelvic ultrasound or similar imaging testing. In order to have a pelvic ultrasound, you would need to see a health care provider.
Is There a Cure for Fibroids?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for fibroids. There are many ways to live with fibroids, such as taking medication or undergoing surgery.
Since fibroid situations vary person to person, it is important to discuss your concerns with a health care provider.
There are some medication options to consider, such as over the counter pain medications. Hormonal contraception, like the Depo shot or the pill, may also help with decreasing the bleeding.
There are also surgical methods as well, but surgery only removes the present fibroids. Even after a myomectomy (the name for fibroid surgery removal), some fibroids can reemerge.
The Bottom Line
Living with fibroids is not easy, especially if they are recurrent and interfere with your quality of life.
Because of the nature of fibroids, it is critical to find a health care provider who understands your concerns and can discuss your options. For guidance on fibroid management, talk to your health care provider about your concerns!
Share this post to raise awareness of fibroids and fibroid awareness month.
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