Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during childbearing years. Also called leiomyomas (lie-o-my-O-muhs) or myomas, uterine fibroids are not associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer and almost never develop into cancer.
Fibroids range in size from small growths that can only be detected with ultrasound, to bulky masses that can distort and enlarge the uterus. You can have a single fibroid or multiple ones. In extreme cases, multiple fibroids can expand the uterus so much that it can be the size of a full term pregnancy.
Many women will develop uterine fibroids over the course of their lifetime. In the U.S., an estimated 26 million between the ages of 15 and 50 have uterine fibroids. Many of these women are unaware they have uterine fibroids because they have no symptoms. Many of these women are unaware they have fibroids until they are found incidentally during a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound.
However, more than half of women with fibroids will experience associated symptoms or health concerns, according to this study. Symptoms can be influenced by the location, size and number of fibroids, but even small fibroids can cause symptoms.
The most common signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids include:
● Heavy menstrual bleeding
● Menstrual periods lasting more than a week
● Pelvic pressure or pain
● Frequent urination
● Difficulty emptying the bladder
● Backache or leg pains
Rarely, fibroids can cause acute pain when they outgrow their blood supply or start to break down.
For reasons that are unknown, Black women are up to three times more likely than White women to have uterine fibroids, and they often present with larger and more numerous growths. Black women are also more likely to develop fibroids at a younger age.
Black women are particularly more likely to have debilitating symptoms that significantly impact their quality of life in terms of work, relationships, and physical activities. This can lead them to feel helpless, scared, depressed, and alone.
However, far too many Black women are suffering needlessly before seeking treatment for their fibroids. Research shows that Black women wait substantially longer than White women before seeking treatment—4.5 years compared with 3.3 years.
The Black Women’s Health Imperative asserts that health care providers, particularly the gynecologists who treat most women with fibroids, play an important role in advising and guiding women as they decide on the best treatment for their fibroids. Extensive research shows that provider beliefs and biases about Black women are linked to racial disparities in health and health care.
There’s no single best approach to uterine fibroid treatment—many treatment options exist.
Removal of the uterus, or hysterectomy, is a popular option for women who are done having children. With the uterus gone, new fibroids can’t form. But there are also non-surgical treatments, including medicines that help control fibroid-related symptoms.
Women who suffer from heavy bleeding due to uterine fibroids and are seeking contraception may consider clinical trials. The SERENE study is evaluating whether the drug relugolix combination therapy (Rel-CT) can prevent pregnancy when used in premenopausal women with uterine fibroids . Rel-CT has been FDA-approved to manage symptoms of heavy bleeding associated with uterine fibroids.
If you are a woman with heavy bleeding due to uterine fibroids and seeking contraception, you could qualify to participate in the SERENE study. To find out more about this clinical trial, please follow this link.
While there are many treatment options for uterine fibroids, there is no clear winner. That means you and your doctor can choose a treatment based on your preferences and reproductive plans along with other medical considerations.
Sponsored by Myovant Sciences, GmbH
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