Category Archives: Ask An Expert

Cooling Cap for Chemo Helps Prevent Hair Loss in Cancer Patients

Cooling Cap for Chemo Helps Prevent Hair Loss in Cancer Patients

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When you first hear the diagnosis of cancer, the mind poses a myriad of questions. First, you want to know all the options available in the treatment for the disease. What’s next are the corresponding side effects of each option and how they will impact your life, in the short- and long-terms. For many, the side effects weigh heavy on which course of treatment will be utilized. A common fear with cancer treatment is the potential for hair loss. And for the patients who prefer to keep their diagnosis a private matter, nothing could be more revealing than to lose one’s natural locks. The FDA announced its approval of a cooling cap for chemo that can prevent “hair loss” in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Let’s look at how hair loss happens.

Chemotherapy Induced Alopecia (CIA)

Many chemotherapies will target all cells in the body that divide rapidly. Along with tumor cells, human hair growth happens in the same way that cancer cells populate. This is why hair loss from cancer treatment, known as chemotherapy induced alopecia, can happen. To stop cancer, drugs need to be effective at apoptosis, or cell death. Unfortunately, cell death can also take root in the hair follicles. CIA is not a result from all chemotherapy regimens, as it depends on the type of drugs used, duration of treatment, and the manner in which the drug is administered to the patient.

Research has shown that CIA will begin within one to two weeks after chemo begins. Usually, within 90 days after the first days of cancer treatment, patients will have lost all their hair. The good news: It’s temporary.

Just as the body begins to restore and heal 30 days after chemotherapy has stopped, hair follicles seemingly return to life. Though it may take up to three months before new hair growth is visible, more than half of cancer patients who had chemo experience change to their hair. Some see a difference in color while others note the structure or texture has transformed into something new (coarse or fine, wavy or curly).

Why Putting the Freeze on Chemo Makes a Difference

Studies continue to take place to better understand why some patients experience CIA and others don’t. Scientists are looking into genetics as a precursor for CIA from chemotherapy.

For more than 40 years, the idea of cooling the scalp to help minimize the risks of alopecia has been considered and tested. Recent posts in the Journal of the American Medical Association “JAMA” show results in the use of such practices. And now, the FDA puts their seal of approval on it.

Cancer Patients Find Relief with Dignicap Cooling

In clinical trials, 66 percent of breast cancer patients treated with the Dignicap Cooling System during chemo infusions lost only half of their hair. Since chemotherapy generally affects “rapidly dividing cells” including hair follicles, both normal (hair follicles) and cancer cells are affected. However, the cooling mechanism in the head cap causes vessels in the scalp to constrict or “shrink”. This helps decrease the amount of chemotherapy going directly to hair follicles, thus preventing hair loss.

Compassion Matters during Cancer Treatment

At AZGyn, we take a more “natural” approach to healthcare. In the treatment of cancer, we provide our patients with a cooling cap (to decrease hair loss). In addition, we also provide “cold” mittens for hands and feet, reducing the chances of “neuropathies” (numbness and tingling in hands and feet) after receiving chemotherapy.


For a Safer, More Natural Approach to Cancer Care and Women’s Health
Call AZGyn (602) 358-8588

Could Your Endometrial Cancer Symptoms Turn Out to Be Something Else?

Could Your Endometrial Cancer Symptoms Turn Out to Be Something Else?

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Endometrial, or uterine, cancer is the most common reproductive cancer among American women. In fact, over their lifetimes, women stand a 2.5 percent risk of developing endometrial cancer. The cancer also makes up just over 6 percent of all cancers in women.

With this level of prevalence, it makes sense that women should be especially vigilant to detect endometrial cancer early. However, some other conditions effectively mimic endometrial cancer. These conditions can cause false panic, or lead women to be less likely to believe endometrial cancer caused their symptoms.

What Is Endometrial Cancer?

Endometrial Cancer SymptomsAlso known as uterine cancer, endometrial cancer affects the interior of the uterus, the primary reproductive organ in women. Located in the pelvis, the uterus houses and nourishes the developing fetus during pregnancy. Its lining, called the endometrium, exists in two layers – the basal layer and the functional layer. During the menstrual cycle, the functional layer thickens to prepare to accommodate a zygote. It is then shed during menstruation if fertilization does not occur.

Endometrial cancer involves too-rapid cell growth and an eventual tumor on the basal layer of the endometrium. Other types of uterine cancer, such as uterine sarcoma, can occur on the other parts of the uterus but endometrial cancer is much more common. As a result, it is important to watch for signs of endometrial cancer.

What Are Some Signs of Endometrial Cancer?

There are numerous signs and symptoms of endometrial cancer. Some of the most common include:

  • Watery, blood-tinged discharge. Watery, bloody discharge apart from your regular periods or after menopause is the most telling sign of endometrial cancer. It is a classic, or cardinal, symptom that women should never ignore.
  • Any abnormal vaginal discharge and bleeding. Nearly 90 percent of women with endometrial cancer experienced abnormal vaginal bleeding at some point before diagnosis. Abnormal vaginal discharge and bleeding can encompass a number of symptoms:
    • Bleeding between periods
    • Bleeding after menopause
    • Non-bloody, unusual discharge between periods or after menopause
  • It is important to report abnormal bleeding, spotting, or any other abnormal discharge to your doctor, particularly if you’ve already experienced menopause.
  • Pelvic pain. Though pelvic pain is common to many other pelvic conditions, when associated with some other symptoms, it can be a sign of endometrial cancer.
  • Feeling bloating, a mass, or heaviness in the pelvis. Unusual feelings of heaviness or a mass in the abdomen can be a sign of a uterine tumor. However, this symptom is not common until endometrial cancer is more advanced.
  • Painful sex and urination. Pain during sex – particularly deeper, cervical pain – can result from endometrial cancer. Similarly, pain during urination can indicate other pelvic issues.
  • Unexplained weight loss. Unexplained weight loss can be a symptom of numerous conditions found throughout the body. However, in combination with other signs and symptoms mentioned above, weight loss can be the final piece to the puzzle when it comes to an endometrial cancer diagnosis.

What Other Conditions Can Mimic Endometrial Cancer?

A host of other pelvic and reproductive conditions can produce some of the same symptoms as endometrial cancer.

  • Conditions that cause abnormal vaginal bleeding. Most of the conditions commonly confused with endometrial cancer are conditions that also produce abnormal vaginal bleeding:
    • Menorrhagia, or regular, unusually heavy periods
    • Anovulation, where the ovaries fail to release an egg
    • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
    • Endocrine syndromes that affect ovulation, like Cushing syndrome and hypo/hyperthyroidism
    • Uterine polyps
    • Endometriosis
    • Uterine fibroids
    • Malformed arteries and veins
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Conditions that cause other symptoms mimicking endometrial cancer. Other symptoms of endometrial cancer, such as pelvic pain, pelvic masses, and abdominal bloating, can be caused by:
    • Vaginal infections
    • Cervical infections
    • Cervical polyps
    • Vasculitis
    • Vaginal fistulas
    • Urethral diseases
    • Crohn’s disease

It is important to determine whether these conditions are present before continuing with treatments for endometrial cancer.

Are You at Risk for Endometrial Cancer?

As with any other form of cancer, the presence of certain factors for endometrial cancer can increase your risk. It is important to note that the presence of one or even many of these risk factors does not mean you will develop endometrial cancer. Rather, risk factors mean you may be more likely to develop cancer.

Consider whether you may have any of these endometrial cancer risk factors:

  • Years of menstruation. More years of menstruation, whether due to early menstruation or later menopause, increases your risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Older age. Apart from years of menstruation, older women are more likely to develop endometrial cancer, especially after menopause.
  • Zero pregnancies. If you’ve never been pregnant, you are at increased risk of developing endometrial cancer.
  • Obesity. Obese women are more likely to develop endometrial cancer, possibly because body fat can alter your hormones.
  • Hereditary colon cancer syndrome. Otherwise known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer syndrome, or HNCCS, this syndrome increases your risk for multiple cancers, including colorectal and endometrial cancers.
  • Certain hormonal drugs. Tamoxifen, a hormonal drug used to treat breast cancer, carries a small risk of causing endometrial cancer. However, the benefits outweigh the risks in many cases.

What Should You Do?

You can avoid some of the risk factors noted above by maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise, and thinking twice about using hormonal therapies. In addition, many doctors suggest using birth control pills for at least one year. This alteration in your routine can result in years’ worth of risk reduction for endometrial cancer.

If you notice symptoms of endometrial cancer, it is important to inform a doctor right away. Endometrial cancer is extremely treatable if caught early, and the most common signs and symptoms appear early in the cancer’s progress. Although other conditions may mimic some of these symptoms, it is best to seek an appointment with any of our knowledgeable practitioners at Arizona Gynecology Consultants. By determining what is causing your symptoms, we can pursue effective treatment.

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Does Alcohol Consumption Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Does Alcohol Consumption Increase Breast Cancer Risk?

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Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug on the planet, and women face a significant risk of developing breast cancer from overconsumption of alcohol. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women all over the world*, and a new study out of Australia confirms the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk.

The Link Between Alcohol And Breast Cancer

Researchers from Flinders University in Australia recently reported that breast cancer accounts for more than 13% of all new cancer diagnoses in Australia and more than 28% of all new cancer diagnoses in women**. One of the most troubling findings from the studies done to reach this conclusion is the fact that many women do not understand the severity of the risk posed by alcohol consumption and how alcohol can increase the risk of developing breast cancer and other serious health conditions. Among women ages 45 to 64, alcohol consumption rates appear to be rising in tandem with alcohol consumption rates.

Understanding The Risks

1 in 8 Women will be diagnosed breast cancer in their lifetimeResearch consistently reports strong links between alcohol consumption and cancer risk, and women who consume three alcoholic drinks per week face a 15% increase in breast cancer risk. Cancer researchers also report that for every drink beyond three per week increases this risk by an additional 10%***. Young girls between the ages of 9 and 15 also face a significantly higher risk of developing benign breast lumps if they consume three to five alcoholic drinks per week. Drinking alcohol can also increase the risk of breast cancer returning in women who received early-stage breast cancer diagnoses.

Drinking alcohol increase estrogen levels in the body. This inherently means that alcohol increases the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers, like breast cancer. Although some medical research indicates that one alcoholic drink per day can actually help prevent some medical problems like heart disease, this comes with a tradeoff of increasing the risk of developing other health problems. Remember, this applies to all forms of alcohol. It does not matter if you prefer beer, wine, or hard liquor; any type of alcohol consumption will invariably increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Alcohol consumption also causes other medical issues that can make it harder for your body to fight cancer. For example, alcohol is hard on the liver, and people who consume alcohol face a greater risk of developing liver diseases. Alcohol can also interrupt brain function, immune system effectiveness, and digestive functions. Ultimately, drinking causes countless health problems, and any suggested health benefits of daily drinking fall very short of offsetting the potential damage it can cause.

Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk

Some women are naturally predisposed to developing breast cancer, but any woman can reduce her risk by limiting alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a deeply ingrained part of social life in the United States, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere in the world, but that does not mean you must make it a part of your social life.

Taking a few proactive steps to reduce your alcohol consumption can dramatically lower your risk of developing breast cancer or prevent breast cancer from returning after an early-stage diagnosis and treatment.

  • Proactively limit your alcohol intake. You do not have to give up drinking entirely, but limiting yourself to one or two drinks per week would minimize the increased risk of breast cancer alcohol consumption presents.
  • Abstain from alcohol entirely. While some claim that a glass of red wine each day can improve blood pressure and bolster heart function, there really is no medical benefit to consuming alcohol. Abstaining entirely is the best way to limit your risk of breast cancer, but social pressures can make this difficult for many women.
  • If you know that certain situations encourage you to drink, try to mix up your routine and find new ways to enjoy your leisure time without drinking. Consider reaching out to make new friends or explore a new hobby you have always wanted to try.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Alcohol can wreak havoc on the body, and this happens more acutely in those with poor dietary habits.
  • Seek substance abuse treatment if you think you have developed a drinking problem. Accepting the fact that you need help can be an incredible challenge, but the sooner you address a drinking problem and receive treatment, the sooner you can start making healthier life choices and minimizing your risk of breast cancer and other medical complications.
  • Exercise daily. Even a few minutes of moderate exercise each day can improve your overall health and help prevent different types of cancer.

These are just a few steps you can take to limit the risk of alcohol consumption leading to major medical problems like breast cancer.

Finding Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Due to alcohol’s place in society, many people may find it very difficult to admit to a drinking problem. High-functioning alcoholism is incredibly common today, and this type of alcoholism describes a person who seemingly has his or her life in order while maintaining an alcohol abuse disorder. Eventually, this type of lifestyle will not last, and the individual will need to make significant changes before alcoholism consumes his or her life entirely. Admitting the need for treatment is the first step toward recovery, and the rehab experience can be incredibly beneficial in more ways than just helping you quit drinking. The skills and coping techniques learned in rehab can apply to other areas of life, helping a person cultivate new friendships and healthier habits that contribute to a healthier, safer lifestyle.

The added benefit of seeking alcohol addiction treatment is that quitting drinking will lower your risk of developing breast cancer. Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about how your alcohol consumption habits could be negatively impacting your health, and do not be afraid of reaching out to ask for help on the road to recovery.

The Importance in Raising Awareness of Endometriosis

The Importance in Raising Awareness of Endometriosis

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March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and everyone should understand the value of raising awareness of this medical condition. Although a large number of women develop this condition and it often entails severe adverse symptoms, endometriosis does not seem to receive as much public attention as other medical conditions. This March, take some time to understand this condition and do your part to raise awareness any way you can.

What Is Endometriosis?

EndometriosisEndometriosis is a complex condition that often results in serious and painful symptoms. Endometrium typically grows on the interior of the uterine walls and thickens, breaks down, and then bleeds with each menstrual cycle. When endometrium forms on the outside of the uterine walls, it can affect the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic organs in rare cases.

During each menstrual cycle, displaced endometrium tissue acts just like normal endometrium tissue. It breaks down and bleeds, but may not have anywhere to go. Thus, endometrium tissue on the ovaries can cause endometriomas or cysts to form, eventually leading to scar tissue. The surrounding tissues may become irritated and grow fibrous adhesive tissues that bond nearby pelvic organs together. This condition commonly causes severely painful menstrual periods and other symptoms. If left unchecked, it may cause fertility problems.

Risk Factors and Symptoms

There are several indicators that may increase a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis:

  • Never having children
  • An early menarche or first period
  • Late menopause
  • Menstrual cycles less than 27days
  • Exposure to or natural development of excess levels of estrogen
  • Low body mass index
  • Uterine structuralabnormalities
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Family history of endometriosis

Symptoms usually appear within a few years of a woman’s menarche, can pause during pregnancy and then disappear with menopause. The most commonly reported symptom of endometriosis is unduly painful periods, usually starting a few days prior to menstruation and lasting for several days. Women with endometriosis may also experience excessive bleeding, painful urination, bloating, or pain during intercourse.

Treatments

The first line of treatment for endometriosis typically includes medication. Certain types of hormonal birth control medications can help regulate the growth and processing of endometrium tissue and ease symptoms. Hormonal intrauterine devices can prevent pregnancy for up to seven years, but they rarely treat endometriosis symptoms for this long.

If hormonal treatment does not appear effective, surgery is the next line of treatment for severe endometriosis. A surgeon will attempt to remove endometrium tissue deposits and then continue with hormonal treatment following surgery. Over-the-counter pain medicines, holistic treatments, and lifestyle changes can also improve symptoms.

Common Problems Facing Women with Endometriosis

One of the most challenging aspects of endometriosis treatment is the difficulty in obtaining an accurate diagnosis. Pain is subjective, and everyone experiences pain differently. A woman may complain of excessive menstrual pain during her periods, but her gynecologist may simply interpret this as the typical cramping and discomfort associated with menstrual periods.

According to an article published in Endometriosis News, some women have gone through 10 or more doctor visits before finally receiving referrals to specialists. Even more unfortunate is the typical wait time for an accurate endometriosis diagnosis — eight years or longer.

About 10 percent of women of childbearing age develop endometriosis, and while some manage their symptoms relatively effectively, this condition can cause a host of serious medical issues if left unchecked for too long. The most common of these related conditions is infertility. Endometrium tissue may prevent sperm from reaching eggs or even damage reproductive cells. Endometriosis can potentially interfere with any part of the fertilization and implantation process.

Failure to Address Symptoms

One of the most important reasons for raising awareness of endometriosis is to encourage gynecologists and other physicians to take patient complaints of related symptoms more seriously. From there, conduct more comprehensive screening procedures to catch endometriosis as early as possible and eliminate pain sooner than later. While this is by no means a rare or obscure condition, the symptoms are variable and often subjective, making it easy for a gynecologist to overlook or mistake for another condition.

Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

Gynecologists’ not taking patients seriously is just one obstacle facing women in need of accurate endometriosis diagnoses; it is also very difficult to detect with imaging procedures. In many cases, a physician must perform a laparoscopic surgical inspection to confirm an endometriosis diagnosis, and the thought of undergoing this procedure deters some women from reporting their endometriosis symptoms.

Since endometriosis can be very difficult to accurately diagnose and shares symptoms with other common uterine medical issues, some women must contend with misdiagnoses for ovarian cysts or pelvic inflammatory disease. Irritable bowel syndrome can also accompany endometriosis, potentially misleading an attending physician to a misdiagnosis for a gastrointestinal issue rather than endometriosis.

How to Raise Endometriosis Awareness

There are many ways you can contribute to the public discussion on endometriosis and expand awareness of this condition. Women who have suffered from the symptoms of endometriosis should consider sharing their stories with others to potentially encourage other women in similar circumstances to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Local events are also great opportunities to increase awareness. Consider taking part in endometriosis advocacy events, such as the Worldwide March for Endometriosis or EndoMarch, at the end of March or any of the events for Endometriosis Awareness Week during the first week of March. Check your local community events guide to see if there is anything planned.

Social media is another great way to share advocacy materials, personal stories, and helpful resources for women struggling with endometriosis. Viral trends and hashtag campaigns can get a lot of people interested in an important topic in a relatively short amount of time. There are also countless petitions you could sign aimed at reducing diagnostic times for endometriosis patients and increasing the availability of care.

Endometriosis Awareness Month is a great opportunity to engage in meaningful advocacy for a condition affecting millions of women all over the world. Considering the significant diagnostic challenges facing women with endometriosis, increasing awareness could potentially help women seek treatment before their symptoms cause serious long-term medical complications.

Six Signs You Need To Find A New Gynecologist

Six Signs You Need To Find A New Gynecologist

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Gynecology is a very personal aspect of human health, and women often find it challenging to find gynecologists who make them feel comfortable and confident in the care they receive. If you do not feel at ease with your gynecologist, it is generally best to trust your instincts and do further research to ensure your doctor is providing the level of care you expect. While you always have the option of a second opinion, some issues are clear indications you should see a new gynecologist. All women should know the following six red flags that should warn anyone away from a gynecologist for good.

Warning Signs Of A Bad Gynecologist

Your gynecologist’s job is to perform required screenings based on age and individual health factors, inspect for visual signs of gynecological issues, and address patient symptoms and concerns with detailed and accurate advice. If your gynecologist indicates any signs of the following six red flags, start looking for a new one as soon as possible.


 

Failure To Stay Up To Date With WHO And CDC Guidance On Birth Control

Your gynecologist should be up-to-date on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). These organizations consistently collate medical data and conduct research into new treatments and diagnostic methods and form the primary consensus for the standard of care in most medical situations.

For example, if your doctor prescribed any form of estrogen containing birth control but did not ask if you had any migraine symptoms, this would be a clear sign he or she has not kept up with the latest WHO and CDC guidelines. Migraines with aura, or migraines that cause visual or auditory interruptions and tingling in the face and head, are a serious contraindication for these medications. Estrogen with birth control may increase the risk of stroke in women who experience migraines with aura.


 

Inaccurate Assessments Of Symptoms

Physicians use a differential diagnostic process to diagnose a patient’s symptoms. First, the doctor checks the patient’s vital signs and compares them to his or her reported symptoms. For example, a patient complaining of headaches may also have high blood pressure, indicating one diagnosis while normal blood pressure would preclude that diagnosis.

If a gynecologist diagnoses pelvic pain as a symptom of pelvic organ prolapse, this is a clear sign of an inappropriate or inaccurate diagnostic process. Pelvic pain is not a symptom of pelvic organ prolapse; this condition causes a noticeable bulge and a sensation that something is exiting the vagina, but no pain. The doctor may not fully understand pelvic organ prolapse as a condition or know how to properly diagnose pelvic pains; a patient should consider either case a serious red flag.


 

Inappropriate Recommendations For Surgery

A hasty recommendation for surgery can give any patient cause for alarm; except in cases of severe medical emergency, a doctor will generally want to observe the patient for some period of time and conduct further diagnostics before recommending surgery. If, for example, a gynecologist were to book incontinence surgery without asking the patient for a bladder diary, this could lead to the patient undergoing a needless surgery. The diary is an important diagnostic step because it can help a physician determine whether surgery will help the patient with her incontinence; skipping this step or any other vital step of the diagnostic process before booking surgery is both negligent and dangerous.


 

Failure To Address Pain During Intercourse As A Symptom

Dyspareunia, or pain during intercourse, is a serious symptom that requires investigation. Sex should not hurt, and any type of pain during intercourse could be a sign of a very serious gynecological issue. If your gynecologist dismisses your concerns about sex during intercourse or makes no attempt to investigate the possible cause, start looking for a new doctor as soon as possible.

Misdiagnosis can lead to a patient’s actual medical condition worsening. If a woman experiences painful intercourse and her gynecologist fails to address this symptom, whatever is causing it could potentially escalate to a life-threatening degree. The doctor may prescribe a treatment that could cause other adverse symptoms if he or she does not take time to accurately diagnose the cause. In either case, mishandling of patient symptoms is a major red flag for any type of healthcare.


 

Failure To Recognize Potentially Dangerous Prescription Interactions

A good doctor must account for all aspects of a patient’s medical condition, including preexisting conditions and prescriptions intended to treat those conditions. Without proper review of the patient’s medical records, the gynecologist may mistakenly prescribe a medication that has fatally dangerous interactions with another prescription. For example, if the doctor prescribes fluconazole for a yeast infection to a patient who already takes a statin drug for high blood pressure, the patient may die. This interaction can cause rhabdomyolysis and the doctor should advise the patient to stop taking the statin drug during the course of fluconazole treatment.

If your gynecologist mentions any treatment or advice that conflicts with your medical history, bring the discrepancy up as soon as possible. If the doctor was unaware of your prior history, take this as an indication he or she has not thoroughly reviewed your medical records.


 

Improper Diagnostic Methods

Women report many symptoms to their gynecologists and every symptom requires attention. Those symptoms also require appropriate diagnosis. If your gynecologist claims your pelvic pain is due to uterine fibroids, this is a clear sign of improper diagnosis. Uterine fibroids are benign tumors of the uterine muscles that can cause acute pain once they start to lose their blood supply and degenerate, but this is detectable with imaging procedures. Fibroids commonly cause irregular and/or heavy bleeding, but rarely pain.

These are just a few ways to determine if your gynecologist is truly right for you. Ultimately, trust your instincts if anything feels wrong about a gynecologist’s treatment or if you find yourself experiencing consistent gynecological issues.

Signs, Symptoms, And Treatments Of Uterine Fibroids

Signs, Symptoms, And Treatments Of Uterine Fibroids

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Uterine fibroids are one of the most common gynecological conditions seen in America and a leading cause of uterine surgery for premenopausal women. Roughly 70%* of Caucasian women will experience uterine fibroids, and the rate is higher for African-American women who generally report stronger symptoms at younger ages. Uterine fibroids may be asymptomatic for some women and severely problematic for others. Uterine fibroid removal procedures are also the second most common surgical procedure after Caesarean section operations among premenopausal women.

What Are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are growths that appear in and on the uterus. These benign tumors grow in the muscle tissue of the uterine walls and rarely indicate cancer. The exact cause of uterine fibroids remains unknown, and these growths may eventually become quite large and cause intense symptoms. Other women may develop uterine fibroids and never notice any adverse symptoms. Other common names for uterine fibroids include leiomyomas, myomas, uterine myomas, and fibromas.

Types Of Uterine Fibroids

The size and location of uterine fibroids are the major contributing factors in the severity of negative symptoms. Gynecologists generally divide uterine fibroids into four categories:

  • Intramural fibroids, the most commonly diagnosed type that manifest within the walls of the uterus. These fibroids may eventually grow and distort the shape of the womb.
  • Subserosal fibroids, which form on the outer walls or serosa of the uterus. These fibroids can eventually cause the uterus to appear larger on one side.
  • Predunculated fibroids, which are subserosal fibroids that develop long stems that support the bodies of the tumors.
  • Submucosal fibroids, the least common type of fibroids found in the myometrium or middle muscle layer of the uterus.

Any of these types of uterine fibroids may cause adverse symptoms of varying degrees or no symptoms at all. Although there is no clearly defined cause of uterine fibroids, women can refer to several indicators to determine their level of risk of yet undetected uterine fibroids. However, uterine fibroids requiring treatment cause adverse symptoms that most women would report to their gynecologists as soon as symptoms appear.

Indicators Of Uterine Fibroid Risk

Although there is no firmly defined cause of uterine fibroids, medical researchers point to various possible causes and contributing factors that all women should know.

  • The ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone, two vital hormones for proper reproductive cycles. These hormones regenerate the uterine lining during each menstrual cycle, potentially stimulating uterine fibroid growth.
  • Genetics may also predispose a woman to developing uterine fibroids. If your mother, grandmother, or other female relatives experienced uterine fibroids in the past, you could as well.
  • Pregnancy causes an increase in estrogen and progesterone production to maintain the uterine lining. This may lead to uterine fibroids growing rapidly during a pregnancy.
  • Medical research points to obesity as a possible contributing factor to uterine fibroids.
  • African-American women generally face a higher risk of developing uterine fibroids, and women over 30 in general face the greatest risk.

Discuss any concerns about your risk factors or medical history with your gynecologist, but remember that uterine fibroids may not require treatment or removal at all unless they cause severe adverse symptoms.

Are Uterine Fibroids Cancerous?

While there is a risk of a uterine fibroid turning cancerous, it is a very small chance. Only about one of every 1,000 uterine fibroid cases involves leiomyosarcoma, or a cancerous fibroid. ** Women should know that having uterine fibroids does not increase the risk of developing cancerous fibroids, nor do they increase the risk of developing other types of uterine cancers.

Common Symptoms

Many women have uterine fibroids and may not even know it because their conditions are asymptomatic. When they do report symptoms, the number, size, and location of their fibroids generally inform the severity of their symptoms. Some of the most commonly reported uterine fibroid symptoms include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Pelvic pain or feelings of intense pressure
  • Menstrual periods lasting longer than one week
  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder
  • Pain in the legs and lower back
  • In rare cases, acute pain as fibroids lose blood supply and begin to die

Any woman who experiences these or other adverse symptoms should report them to her gynecologist as soon as possible.

Fibroids may not interfere with pregnancy in some cases, but in others they can cause infertility or even loss of pregnancy. Submucosal fibroids generally carry the greatest risk of interfering with pregnancy, but any type of fibroids may lead to fetal growth restriction, placental abruption, or preterm delivery.

When To See A Doctor

Women who experience sudden changes in menstrual cycles, experience excessively heavy, painful or prolonged periods, or periods lasting more than one week should seek medical care as soon as possible. Other worrisome symptoms that require immediate treatment include blood spotting between periods, pelvic pain that does not go away, and difficulty emptying the bladder. Any onset of sudden, sharp pain should also be cause to see a gynecologist as soon as possible.

Treating Uterine Fibroids

Lifestyle changes and holistic therapies may help ease the symptoms of uterine fibroids and prevent flare-ups in the future. Yoga, massage, and meditation can have positive effects, and dietary changes that include foods rich in flavonoids can boost overall nutrition and reduce the negative impact of fibroids. Other common treatments include medications, contraceptive devices, and surgery. Hormone medications can restore appropriate levels of estrogen and progesterone in the bloodstream and limit the blood flow to uterine fibroids. Anti-inflammatory painkillers and some forms of birth control may also ease symptoms.

Uterine Fibroids

When a uterine fibroid diagnosis requires surgery, it is usually due to a very large fibroid or a cluster of many fibroids. Although there are minimally invasive procedures to help remove fibroids, they may grow back after surgery. If fibroids reach severe levels or grow too large, the woman may require a hysterectomy. Speak with your gynecologist as soon as possible if you believe you are experiencing adverse symptoms from uterine fibroids.