She said, “The last thing I heard was when she said I had a tumor in my uterus, and it’s very big. It seems it’s been there for a while, I don’t know what she said after that, all I have been thinking about is what I will do now. Two young boys, three grown up girls, chemotherapy sessions, surgeries. I didn’t realize anything until I got home. Looking at those boys, I decided I wasn’t going to tell anyone, and I will just let it be until it’s time.”
I am sure so many women went through this before, or you personally know someone who did. This is known as uterine fibroids, or leiomyoma. It is a noncancerous, totally benign, tumor in a smooth muscular tissue in the uterus. A single cell divides repeatedly, eventually creating a firm, rubbery mass distinct from nearby tissue. These vary in size and are more common in childbearing age. As many as 3 out of every 4 women are found to have or had uterine fibroids but most are unaware because it, as well, has no symptoms.
Doctors and researchers couldn’t know the definitive cause of these fibroids, but it’s said to be associated with a number of factors. Many genetic studies, proved that some fibroids have different genes in the uterine muscle cells. Some studies also proved that it runs in families. One of the most common factors found is hormonal changes. Fibroids contain more estrogen and progesterone receptors than normal uterine muscle cells do. They also tend to shrink after menopause due to a decrease in hormone production. Estrogen and progesterone peak during the menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy and these hormones are proven to increase the size of fibroids; thus, in some cases, it disappears or shrinks after pregnancy. It’s also proven that substances that help the body maintain tissues, such as insulin-like growth factor, may affect fibroid growth.
There are a few known risks that may cause uterine fibroids in women other than being in the reproductive age, these factors impact the development of fibroids. If the mother or sister had fibroids, there is a high risk of her having it too. Black women are more likely to have fibroids at a younger age with a larger size than women of other racial groups. The onset of menstruation at an early age, having a diet higher in red meat and lower in green vegetables and fruit, and drinking alcohol, appear to increase the risk of developing fibroids.
Fibroids range in size from seedlings to bulky masses that can distort and enlarge the uterus. They can be single or multiple, in extreme cases expanding the uterus so much that it reaches the rib cage. There are different types according to its site:
Submucosal fibroids. Fibroids that grow into the inner cavity of the uterus are more likely to cause prolonged, heavy menstrual bleeding and sometimes can prevent the implantation and growth of an embryo.
Subserosal fibroids. Fibroids that project to the outside of the uterus can sometimes press on the bladder, causing her to experience urinary symptoms. If fibroids bulge from the back of the uterus, they occasionally can press either on the rectum, causing a pressure sensation and constipation, or pressure spinal nerves, causing backache, which seem to be one of the most common symptoms.
Intramural fibroids. Some fibroids grow within the muscular uterine wall if large enough, they can distort the shape of the uterus and cause prolonged, heavy periods, as well as pain and pressure.
Fibroids might, rarely, cause acute pains when it has poor supply, an increase in size, or poor nutrition. Most common symptoms are heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged menstrual periods, pelvic pressure or pain, frequent or difficult urination, constipation, and Backache or leg pains. If any of these symptoms persist or become worse, you need to see a doctor. Many cases were incidentally discovered during a routine ultrasound or pelvic examination.
As much as it’s benign and common, possible treatment options aren’t easy. If it’s small, it might shrink or disappear. So, watchful waiting is the first option, medical treatments are then considered, then removal (invasive and noninvasive) of those fibroids is a possible option too. If all treatments fail, a total hysterectomy is the last option for a woman who doesn’t need to preserve fertility.
Although researchers continue to study the causes of fibroid tumors, little scientific evidence is available on how to prevent them. Preventing uterine fibroids may not be possible, but only a small percentage of these tumors require treatment.
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