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Tackling fibroids

MORE THAN half of women will develop fibroids before the age of 50.

Many will never know they have them as no symptoms will be present, while others will experience painful, heavy periods, and some will have complications with fertility and during pregnancy.

A common problem among black women especially, it is said that we are three times more likely to develop them – and from an earlier age. With this in mind, Chantelle Kimberley takes a look at the steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing them, and the number of treatments available.

What are they?

Fibroids are the most frequently seen tumours of the female reproductive system. They are also known as uterine myomas, leiomyomas or fibromas, and are firm, compact tumours that are made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that develop in the uterus. In more than 99 per cent of fibroid cases, the tumours are benign (non-cancerous). They are not associated with cancer and do not increase a woman’s chance of getting uterine cancer. They range in size, from pea size to a small grapefruit.

What causes them?

No one is actually sure what causes fibroids, or what causes them to grow or shrink. We do know that hormones play a role, both oestrogen and progesterone. They grow at a much faster rate during pregnancy, when hormone levels are high. They shrink when anti-hormone medication is used. A study in America showed that women who used hair relaxing products were more likely to have fibroids. There were links to chemical exposure through scalp burns that result from relaxers but have not been confirmed. Fibroids also can run in the family. If a mother has fibroids, a daughter is three times more likely to get them. Eating habits also play a part.

What are the symptoms?

Some women who have fibroids show no symptoms, or have only mild symptoms, while other women have more severe, disruptive symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms –
although each individual may experience these differently.

They may include:

• Heavy or prolonged menstrual periods

• Abnormal bleeding between menstrual periods

• Pelvic pain (caused as the tumour presses on pelvic organs)

• Frequent urination

• Low back pain

• Pain during intercourse

• A firm mass, often located near the middle of the pelvis, which can be felt by a physician.

Treatment

If your fibroids need treating, your GP may recommend medication to help relieve your symptoms. For more severe cases, you may need to see a gynaecologist for further medication or surgery, if these are not suitable. See your GP to determine what treatment would be best for you. Some of the options available include:

Medication

• Levonorgestrel Intrauterine System (LNG IUS)

• Tranexamic acid

• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

• The contraceptive pill

• Ulipristal acetate (to shrink tumours)

Surgical procedures:

• Hysterectomy

• Myomectomy

• Hysteroscopic morcellation of fibroids

Non-surgical procedures

• Uterine artery embolisation (UAE)

• Endometrial ablation

• MRI-guided procedures

Controlling your diet

Avoid:

• High-fat processed meat

• Refined carbohydrates

• Dairy

• Refined sugar

• Alcohol

• Caffeine

Healing food

Enjoy more:

• Organic food

• Green leafy vegetables

• Cruciferous vegetables (supporting liver detox and balance oestrogen)

• Beta carotene-rich foods

• Foods high in iron

• Flaxseeds

• Wholegrains.

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