July is the heart of summer, a month filled with many important dates—including calling itself Fibroid Awareness Month.
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the uterus, affecting millions of people with a uterus worldwide. These benign tumors are one of the most common gynecological conditions and can cause various symptoms, including heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding, pain, and intense discomfort. Fibroid Awareness Month is observed annually to shed light on this prevalent condition and emphasize the significance of period health—our greatest passion!
Read on to learn the importance of Fibroid Awareness Month, the impact of fibroids on period health, and the resources available for women to manage and address this condition effectively.
What are Fibroids?
Fibroids, also known as uterine leiomyomas, are atypical growths that develop from the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus. Although the exact cause of fibroids remains unclear, hormonal imbalances, genetics, and varied other environmental factors are thought to contribute to their formation and growth. Each fibroid will vary in size—they can be tiny seedlings, to large masses that distort the shape of the uterus.
The Impact on Period Health
Fibroids have a significant impact on menstrual cycles and overall period health. One of the most common symptoms is heavy menstrual bleeding, known as menorrhagia, which can lead to anemia and fatigue.
Fibroids are a significant contributor to the pain gap experienced by people who menstruate. These growths can cause severe menstrual cramps, pelvic pain, and discomfort, making it challenging to carry out daily routines and activities.
The pain associated with fibroids can be debilitating, affecting productivity, and quality of life, and exacerbating existing gender disparities in healthcare and pain management. Addressing fibroids and improving period health is crucial in closing the pain gap and ensuring equitable support for all.
Fibroids and Their Predominance in Melanated Women
Fibroids, which are a prevalent medical concern for all women, are of particular prevalence and concern for Black women. Studies have shown that a significant majority of women with fibroids are melanated, with one striking statistic highlighting that African-American women are three times more likely to experience fibroid growth than women from other racial or ethnic groups.
This disparity suggests a strong genetic and possibly environmental component influencing fibroid development in melanated populations. Several theories have been posited to explain this predisposition. Some researchers believe that there might be specific genetic markers present predominantly in African-American populations that make them more susceptible. In addition to genetic factors, cultural and lifestyle elements, as well as differences in reproductive health choices, might play a role. This phenomenon underscores the importance of tailored healthcare strategies and awareness campaigns to address the unique health challenges faced by melanated women. It's essential for healthcare professionals to be cognizant of these disparities to provide the best care possible for this demographic.
Life with Fibroids
Detecting fibroids typically involves a combination of methods, like:
- Observe: Track changes in your menstrual cycle, such as heavy or prolonged bleeding, pelvic pain or pressure, frequent urination, or an enlarged abdomen.
- Pelvic examination: Your healthcare provider can perform a pelvic examination to check for any abnormalities in the uterus, ovaries, or cervix. These tests can determine the presence of fibroids and assess their size and location.
- Imaging tests: Diagnostic imaging tests can provide a detailed view of the uterus and help confirm the presence of fibroids. These tests may include:
- Ultrasound: This non-invasive test uses sound waves to create images of the uterus, allowing healthcare providers to visualize fibroids and determine their size and location.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging: MRI provides a comprehensive view of the uterus and helps identify the number, size, and location of fibroids more accurately.
- Computed Tomography scan: A CT scan may be done to get detailed, cross-sectional images of the pelvis and confirm the presence of fibroids.
- Other tests: In certain situations, additional tests may be conducted to rule out other potential causes of symptoms or to gather more information. These tests may include hysteroscopy or endometrial biopsy.
Always always always consult your healthcare provider if you experience any symptoms or have concerns about fibroids. Be steadfast in advocating for your health as they can do all the necessary evaluations and guide you through the diagnostic process. Early detection of fibroids allows for timely management and appropriate treatment options.
If fibroids are discovered, there are several treatment and management options available, depending on the size, location, and severity of symptoms. Hormonal therapies, such as oral contraceptives and intrauterine devices (IUDs) can regulate menstrual bleeding and alleviate pain. For unusually severe cases, surgical interventions, such as myomectomy or hysterectomy, may be necessary.
If fibroids are found, there are three primary factors that warrant intervention in fibroid management: size, pain, and bleeding. If a fibroid grows sufficiently large, it may disrupt the functioning of adjacent organs. Uterine fibroids, irrespective of their size, can induce pain, sometimes so intense that over-the-counter painkillers are ineffective.Hormonal therapies, such as oral contraceptives and intrauterine devices (IUDs) can regulate menstrual bleeding and alleviate pain and may be suggested.
Additionally, while not a universal symptom, fibroids can alter menstrual flow.
However, it's crucial to note that not every fibroid demands surgical removal. The necessity for intervention largely hinges on the accompanying symptoms and other factors need including future childbearing desires, if the fibroids are asymptomatic or symptomatic, whether or not they are causing heavy bleeding that can lead (or does lead to) anemia, or the size compresses other organs and interferes with function.
Naturally, every situation and person is different, so it is best practice to speak to a healthcare professional to explore the most suitable options based on their needs.
Talk About Fibroids
To shed light on this prevalent but often overlooked health condition, Fibroid Awareness Month aims to raise awareness about the impact of fibroids, amp up public knowledge, and encourage early detection and further research. This month serves as a powerful reminder to show solidarity and support for women worldwide.
It also strives to foster an environment that promotes education, open dialogue, and support for women to take charge of their reproductive health. With additional knowledge, it helps people grasp the signs and symptoms of fibroids, enabling them to recognize potential issues and seek appropriate medical attention. This month, join the voices to debunk myths, break down stigmas, and provide valuable resources to those affected by the condition!
Fibroid Awareness Month may come once a year, but menstrual health is important each day. By fostering open conversations, raising awareness, and providing access to resources, women can make informed decisions about their health. It is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of fibroids, seek early diagnosis, and explore appropriate treatment options in collaboration with healthcare professionals.