Fact #1. Fibroids are common. Risk factors for fibroids include:
- Family history
- Time since last birth
- Premenopausal state
Fact #2. Many women are unaware of prevalence, symptoms, and treatment choices for fibroids.
If you are a black woman, odds are that you already have or will develop fibroids BEFORE your 50th birthday. Fibroids are growths which develop in a woman’s womb (uterus). Fibroids can produce a variety of symptoms including heavy periods. But for many women the question regarding her menstrual cycles is what is “too heavy”? How do you know if your periods are too heavy.
Here, is a quick test. If you answer YES to any of the following questions, your periods may be too heavy due to fibroids:
- Do you bleed for more than 7 days?
- Do you need to use one or more forms of protection at the same time?
- Do you use more than 6 tampons or 6 pads on your heavy days?
- Do you pass blood clots?
- Do your have accidents on your heavy pads.
- Do you limit social and/or physical activities during your period?
- Are you anemic?
When in doubt, see a gynecologist.
Between June 30 and September 1, 2016 an online survey* was conducted with over 1,000 women living in the US. The survey was conducted on women who either had symptoms suggestive of fibroids, had had an ultrasound confirming the diagnosis of fibroids, or who had had a hysterectomy due to fibroids. The goal to obtain the perspective of women affected by fibroids and to compare to the general population of women living in the US.
The most common symptoms of affected women were
- feeling tired
- passing bloods clots,
- being less productive at work
- being less social, less physically active during their periods
What these women desired most was relief from heavy bleeding.
This study highlighted that women with symptoms often delay seeking medical care. Women would endure symptoms for years.
The medical most commonly prescribed to women diagnosed with fibroids was birth control pills. Women often went to more than one GYN regarding treatment of their fibroids. The more severe the symptoms, the more likely she would choose to have a hysterectomy. The primary reason given for having a hysterectomy was it was “doctor recommended”. However, many women prefer and continue to seek nonsurgical options.
Unlike many studies, this survey included black women and other ethnicities representative of US demographics. It admirably sought to present the awareness, the symptoms and the treatment decisions of women living in the US with symptoms consistent with fibroids, women diagnosed with fibroids, and those who had had a hysterectomy due to fibroids.
The problem with this survey was that it was financed by a pharmaceutical company which has been seeking FDA approval of a medication which was the potential to reduce fibroid size and to decrease heavy bleeding. While there is no evidence of any misinformation or bias, Allergen has a vested interest in has getting results which would promote their drug. Financing medical studies which promote the benefits of a potential drug isn’t an unusual strategy of pharmaceutical companies. However, with this strategy there is the potential for conflict of interest, the potential of “burying” unfavorable results, and the potential of compromising medical integrity. The conclusions of this and any other related studies will undoubtedly affect the lives of millions of women. Women deserve the benefit of critical, evidence based and reproducible research.
Given the prevalence of fibroids it is important to promote effective strategies especially when they are non-surgical. Effective non-surgical options have the potential to change what GYNs recommend and how we view and treat fibroids.
*Erica E. Marsh, , Ayman Al-Hendy, , Dale Kappus, , Alex Galitsky, Elizabeth A. Stewart, , and Majid Kerolous. Burden, Prevalence, and Treatment of Uterine Fibroids: A Survey of U.S. Women. Published Online:2 Nov 2018https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2018.7076