Many women have uterine fibroids and don’t know it. That’s because these non-cancerous tumors don’t always cause symptoms. If you aren’t aware you have them, it’s likely your physician will discover them during a routine pelvic exam. How exactly? During the exam, your doctor will press down and around your uterus. If uterus abnormalities are suspected, they may predict fibroids and order more tests.
Preparing for Treatment
There are many tests and procedures that can determine
fibroids, their sizes, and location. Some tests may take a while and some require you to wait for a week after your menstrual period. While you wait or prior to your first appointment to discuss treatment options, you may agonize over what to expect and what questions to ask your doctor. Arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible can help you feel confident that you’re going to make the best decision for you and your body. Since lists can help organize your thoughts, we’ve created a ten question guide to present to your physician when you’re ready to discuss uterine fibroid treatment options.
This list is far from all inclusive so you’ll likely have more questions for your gynecologists that are more tailored to your individual needs. But, this guide should get you started.
1. Do I Need Treatment?
Many women who have fibroids with absolutely no symptoms usually don’t seek treatment. In contrast, many women experience symptoms so strong it affects their quality of life. Heavy and prolonged periods, pain during sex, pelvic and stomach pain, are fibroid symptoms that may affect your daily life and activities. Your doctor should be able to advise you on all your options and let you know whether treatment is a good idea for you. They will also tell you if your symptoms are fibroid-related. It’s possible to have fibroids and related symptoms yet the symptoms are caused by another ailment.
2. Why do I have fibroids and how did I get them?
Although fibroids are common among women, especially African Americans you may be surprised that you have them. The exact cause of fibroids is unknown. But most doctors believe fibroids come from an imbalance with the female hormones progesterone and estrogen. Some attribute fibroids to diet, lifestyle, genetics and even stress.
3. Are there other options besides surgery?
There are several treatment plans for fibroids. Although most are surgical, not all are invasive like a hysterectomy. A hysterectomy removes a woman’s uterus and she is unable to bear children. Another procedure is a myomectomy which removes the fibroids and if necessary rebuilds the uterine wall. This option means future pregnancy may be possible. But some women may need to have a hysterectomy or partial hysterectomy. This treatment option is usually for women who’ve already reached menopause or have larger fibroids. This is not something that most women want that are still in their childbearing years. So, inquiring about other options is always worth exploring with your doctor.
Some other treatment options are hysteroscopy, laparoscopy and endometrial ablation. Non-invasive options are MRI-guided focused ultrasound, Myolysis and Cryomyolysisis, Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) and of course more natural solutions. Your doctor should be able to inform you of all the details or each procedure or treatment option and help you decide what is best for you.
4. What are the risks or surgery?
Every surgery comes with risks but surgeries to remove fibroids like a hysterectomy will make pregnancies not an option. For women who have not had children and want them, this is too large of a risk. Other risks may include bleeding and infection.
5. Will they grow back after surgery?
For procedures like a myomectomy, fibroids will not grow back, but you may develop new ones. Up to 33 percent of women will need to repeat this procedure because new fibroids have grown.
6. What should my diet be like?
Some doctors may recommend eating a diet that has plenty of fresh cooked green vegetables, legumes, fresh fruit and fish. Research shows this diet also known as a Mediterranean diet will help lower your risk of fibroids. Also, keep n mind that red meat, beef, ham and lamb may increase your risk. Furthermore, it’s recommended to cut back on alcohol, increase your vitamin D intake and to not smoke.
7. How long is recovery after surgery?
The recovery time period for a hysterectomy is about six weeks. But every procedure does not have the same recovery time. Discussing recovery with your physician is beneficial as it helps you prepare not just your mind and body but also your personal life. Work and childcare arrangements, household duties, you will want to have everything arranged so you can effectively recuperate.
8. What is the best treatment option for me?
Once you are armed with information about various treatments and you’ve had a moment to think about your options and future goals, you and your doctor should discuss what treatment options they recommend and you’re willing to do.
9. Is it painful?
For surgical procedures, there will be anesthesia that will make you completely unconscious. It’s best to inform your doctor of any allergies and current medications at this time. But after the procedure, some pain is to be expected while recovering.
10. What will happen if I don’t seek treatment?
For women who have symptoms that inhibit their life, their symptoms will persist and possibly get worse until menopause. Also, fibroids can continue to grow and multiply. However, treatment is not necessary for everyone.
But, each woman is different so this question is still worth asking.