Raising Awareness for Uterine Fibroids this July



By Ruby Baxley, Communications and Policy Intern

Uterine fibroids are tumor growths along the uterine wall. The tumors can range from the size of a seed to the size of a grapefruit or a melon. They are almost always benign (not cancerous), and they don’t increase a woman’s risk for uterine cancer. The symptoms associated with uterine fibroids may vary widely. Some women do not experience symptoms, which causes the uterine fibroids to go undiagnosed, while others can experience severe discomfort and heavy menstrual bleeding.

Every July, individuals around the world raise awareness for uterine fibroids, which affect an estimated 26 million women of reproductive age in the United States. The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) is dedicated to raising awareness about the effects of uterine fibroids on women’s livelihoods and promoting the need for additional research on uterine fibroids.

Risk Factors of Uterine Fibroids

The exact cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, though the hormone estrogen is suspected to play a role. Women of African descent are disproportionately impacted by fibroids and may experience more fibroids growth, onset at a younger age, and more severe symptoms. Women who reached menarche at a younger age have an increased likelihood of developing tumor growths. Individuals with a family history of uterine fibroids have an increased likelihood of enduring tumor growth.

Diagnosis

Medical professionals often have difficulty diagnosing uterine fibroids due to the varying symptomology. Similarly, women may run into barriers, such as stigmatization or symptom normalization, in seeking timely treatment from their health care providers. Uterine fibroids in asymptomatic women are commonly found incidentally during pelvic exams. Ultrasounds are used to diagnose fibroids by medical professionals. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to diagnose tumor growths.

Treatment

There are several treatment routes for fibroids, which are based off the severity of symptoms. Fibroids have been found to shrink when entering menopause, so surveillance of the size and symptoms of the tumor growths is recommended for those who are asymptomatic.

There are non-surgical treatment mechanisms for fibroids. Some of the treatment routes include contraceptive use. Studies show hormonal contraceptives aid in reducing the loss of menstrual blood over the course of 12 months. Other non-surgical treatments include the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and heating pads to treat muscle pain and cramps.

Minimally invasive procedures can remove or shrink the fibroids. Some of the treatment methods include the following:

  • Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) use sound waves to heat and shrink the size of fibroids.
  • Uterine artery embolization decreases blood flow of fibroids, causing them to shrink in size.
  • Endometrial ablation uses electric currents to shrink fibroids.
  • Laparoscopic myomectomies make a small incision along the uterus to remove the fibroids.

SWHR recognizes the large number of women affected by uterine fibroids and its potential impact on their health and well-being. To help these women navigate their wellness journeys with fibroids, in 2021 SWHR published a Uterine Fibroids Empowerment Toolkit, to serve as a resource related to women’s gynecological health as well as diagnosis and treatment options associated with uterine fibroids. Self-advocacy and recognizing symptoms are essential in beginning conversations with medical professionals to receive proper care. Read and download the toolkit here.

By Ruby Baxley, Communications and Policy Intern

Uterine fibroids are tumor growths along the uterine wall. The tumors can range from the size of a seed to the size of a grapefruit or a melon. They are almost always benign (not cancerous), and they don’t increase a woman’s risk for uterine cancer. The symptoms associated with uterine fibroids may vary widely. Some women do not experience symptoms, which causes the uterine fibroids to go undiagnosed, while others can experience severe discomfort and heavy menstrual bleeding.

Every July, individuals around the world raise awareness for uterine fibroids, which affect an estimated 26 million women of reproductive age in the United States. The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) is dedicated to raising awareness about the effects of uterine fibroids on women’s livelihoods and promoting the need for additional research on uterine fibroids.

Risk Factors of Uterine Fibroids

The exact cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, though the hormone estrogen is suspected to play a role. Women of African descent are disproportionately impacted by fibroids and may experience more fibroids growth, onset at a younger age, and more severe symptoms. Women who reached menarche at a younger age have an increased likelihood of developing tumor growths. Individuals with a family history of uterine fibroids have an increased likelihood of enduring tumor growth.

Diagnosis

Medical professionals often have difficulty diagnosing uterine fibroids due to the varying symptomology. Similarly, women may run into barriers, such as stigmatization or symptom normalization, in seeking timely treatment from their health care providers. Uterine fibroids in asymptomatic women are commonly found incidentally during pelvic exams. Ultrasounds are used to diagnose fibroids by medical professionals. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to diagnose tumor growths.

Treatment

There are several treatment routes for fibroids, which are based off the severity of symptoms. Fibroids have been found to shrink when entering menopause, so surveillance of the size and symptoms of the tumor growths is recommended for those who are asymptomatic.

There are non-surgical treatment mechanisms for fibroids. Some of the treatment routes include contraceptive use. Studies show hormonal contraceptives aid in reducing the loss of menstrual blood over the course of 12 months. Other non-surgical treatments include the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and heating pads to treat muscle pain and cramps.

Minimally invasive procedures can remove or shrink the fibroids. Some of the treatment methods include the following:

  • Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) use sound waves to heat and shrink the size of fibroids.
  • Uterine artery embolization decreases blood flow of fibroids, causing them to shrink in size.
  • Endometrial ablation uses electric currents to shrink fibroids.
  • Laparoscopic myomectomies make a small incision along the uterus to remove the fibroids.

SWHR recognizes the large number of women affected by uterine fibroids and its potential impact on their health and well-being. To help these women navigate their wellness journeys with fibroids, in 2021 SWHR published a Uterine Fibroids Empowerment Toolkit, to serve as a resource related to women’s gynecological health as well as diagnosis and treatment options associated with uterine fibroids. Self-advocacy and recognizing symptoms are essential in beginning conversations with medical professionals to receive proper care. Read and download the toolkit here.

Learn more about fibroids

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