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Not many people know that the month of July is Fibroid Awareness Month. The first of the month is National Wear White Day to show support to all women suffering from uterine fibroids (a.k.a. leiomyomas or myomas) — a benign tumor that grows in a woman’s uterus who is of childbearing age. A benign tumor is a noncancerous growth.
This condition is more common in African Americans than in Hispanic, Asian, or white women. The cause of these benign tumors is unknown.
They can range in size from undetectable by the human eye (seedlings), to a bulky mass that can misshape and enlarge the uterus. A uterus could have a single fibroid or multiple ones. Extreme cases of this medical condition experience multiple fibroids that can expand the uterus so much it reaches the person’s rib cage and can add weight.
Many women have had these noncancerous growths at some point in their lives. However, they may not have known it due to the lack of symptoms. A doctor may find the uterine benign tumor during a routine pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound.
Symptoms of this condition can be influenced by the size, location, and the number of fibroids. The most commons symptoms are:
- Difficulty emptying the bladder.
- Pelvic pressure or pain.
- Heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Periods lasting over a week.
- Frequent urination.
- Backache or leg pain.
On rare occasions, the benign tumor can cause sharp pain when it outgrows its blood supply and begins to die. Their classification depends on their location. If the growth is on the muscular uterine wall it’s called an intramural. A submucosal fibroid bulge into the uterine cavity. The ones that project to the outside of the uterus are subserosal.
Recently, a Chicago native, Taiylar Ball, shared her journey to help bring awareness to this medical condition.
Roughly three years ago Ball began to feel a little off and her admen area began to gain weight. Her menstrual cycle debilitated her every month.
On top of the severe pain she “started having some urinary frequency.” Ball stated that she “was going to the bathroom a lot.”
The first physician she saw suggested she should take ibuprofen and change her diet. Her symptoms did not subside and nearly two years later she went to a nurse midwife who suggested she got an ultrasound. The procedure revealed she had uterine fibroids.
At first, the technician could see “about four” benign, soft tissue tumors. Two of them were roughly the size of grapefruits.
Dr. Sandra Laveaux with UChicago Medicine’s Center for the Advanced Treatment and Research of Uterine Fibroids, stated, “The data suggests that 70-80% of women in the United States will have fibroids by the age of 50.”
Ball has been open about her diagnosis, posting videos on social media and tweeting about it, even as she prepared for surgery at the University of Chicago in May. “It does [affect] Black women the most, so it’s so important to advocate for yourself and just pay attention to your body,” she stated.
Dr. Laveaux performed a myomectomy on Ball to remove the fibroids.
The 24-year-old stated she can see “a difference each month.” Roughly two months later and Ball has experienced less of a menstrual cycle and the pain is not as bad. “I just think it’s going to get better,” she added.
If a woman is experiencing any of the following symptoms they should see a doctor:
- Overly heavy, prolonged, or painful menstrual cycles.
- Bleeding or spotting in between periods.
- Pelvic pain that doesn’t go away.
- Unexplained low red blood cell count (anemia).
- Difficulty emptying their bladder.
Anyone who is experiencing severe vaginal bleeding or sharp, sudden pelvic pain should seek medical care immediately.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Mayo Clinic: Uterine fibroids
FDA: Knowledge & News on Women: Fibroid Awareness Month
NBC 5: Chicago Woman Shares Uterine Fibroids Journey to Raise Awareness
Inset Image by Anja Hirschelmann and Rudy Leon De Wilde Uploaded by Mikael Häggström Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of World Bank Photo Collection‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License