July is Fibroid Awareness Month and who better to get the word out than HerMD? While you may not be familiar with fibroids, they are incredibly common, mostly benign, growths that develop from the muscle tissue of the uterus. When we say incredibly common we mean it: it is estimated that 70-80% of women “will develop fibroids in their lifetime,” according to our friends over at the White Dress Project. Although the exact cause of fibroids is unknown, certain factors increase a woman’s risk of developing them. Some of these risk factors include: age, race, family history, genetics, and high blood pressure. Importantly, fibroids can impact people with uteruses differently. Black women develop fibroids at a higher rate, more quickly, and at a younger age than White women. To better understand how fibroids can impact you or a family member directly, keep reading below to learn more about the symptoms and treatment options for fibroids.
Fibroids need hormones, like estrogen, and a blood supply, to grow. They can vary in size and in location, and can cause symptoms that may impact quality of life. Some women may not experience any symptoms at all. However, if you have been experiencing any of the symptoms below, it may be worth mentioning to your doctor so they can request an ultrasound or MRI of your uterus to get a better understanding of any underlying causes.
Symptoms of fibroids can include:
- Heavy bleeding or painful periods
- Pain during sex
- Lower back pain
- A feeling of fullness or discomfort in the abdomen
- Frequent urination
- Pregnancy complications
If fibroids are causing you to have mild or severe symptoms, your provider may recommend treatment with certain medications to help alleviate them. In some instances, procedures that treat or remove fibroids may be recommended. At HerMD, we suggest the following medications and procedures to help manage, treat, and remove fibroids:
- Oral contraceptives and IUDs, like Mirena, may treat the heavy bleeding associated with fibroids, but not the fibroids themselves.
- ORIAHNN®, an oral medication, is FDA-approved for the treatment of heavy menstrual bleeding associated with fibroids in premenopausal women.
- Lupron, an injection, reduces the amount of estrogen produced, thereby shrinking fibroids and minimizing heavy bleeding.
There are a multitude of different procedural approaches that can be used to treat and remove fibroids. We recommend speaking with a surgeon to discuss these approaches, and if any might be the right option for you.
- Myomectomy: a procedure that removes fibroids while preserving the uterus.This procedure can be performed traditionally through open surgery or robotically using a minimally-invasive approach.
- Hysterectomy: a procedure that removes the uterus completely. This procedure can permanently treat fibroids, but may not be a realistic option for everyone, especially those wanting to become pregnant. This procedure can also be performed traditionally through open surgery or robotically using a minimally-invasive approach.
- Sonata: an incision-free procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to reduce the size of fibroids, thereby reducing fibroid symptoms. During this procedure, the Sonata Treatment handpiece is inserted through the vagina and into the uterus. Once inserted, ultrasound waves are used to target individual fibroids by delivering radiofrequency energy to each one individually. The Sonata treatment is offered at HerMD.
- Acessa: a minimally invasive procedure that also uses radiofrequency energy to reduce the size of fibroids, thereby reducing fibroid symptoms. Similar to the Sonata procedure, radiofrequency energy is delivered to and shrinks the fibroids that can’t be reached with Sonata. During this procedure, which is performed in a hospital setting, fibroids are accessed and treated through the abdomen.
For an even deeper dive into the fibroid treatments available, visit this thorough resource from Healthy Women. If you’ve made it this far into the article you may be craving more info, making resources like the White Dress Project (TWDP) all the more crucial. This organization actively works to educate, advocate and destigmatize fibroids through in-person informational programs, creating a comprehensive digital fibroid tool kit and highlighting countless stories from women around the world.
Should you find yourself in the greater Cincinnati area on July 20th, join us for a conversation on all things fibroids at the Fueled Collective, RSVP here!