When women hear they have uterine fibroids, they are often understandably worried. Their reaction could be primed by girlfriends, family members or even a doctor. Many voices can chime in about what fibroids are, how to best treat them and how they impact a woman’s health.
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But there’s lots of misinformation out there about fibroids. Lingering beliefs about them are simply wrong.
Fibroids, which are made up of benign muscular and fibrous tissues, are incredibly common. About half of all women have them. Most fibroids never cause any symptoms.
Women of African, Caribbean and African-American descent are more likely to have fibroids. (As many as 80 percent of women of those ethnicities may have fibroids, according to some estimates.)
Let’s examine four myths about uterine fibroids, and get to the truth:
Myth 1: Fibroids are cancer.
Fact: Some people may call them ‘fibroid tumors,’ but they’re not cancerous and rarely lead to cancer. As I tell my patients, fibroids are present and a passenger, but not a problem.
Myth 2: If I have fibroids, I’ll need a hysterectomy.
Fact: By age 60, one out of three American women has had a hysterectomy, and only 10 percent of those were for cancer.
The risks are significant. Of the 650,000 hysterectomies done each year, there are 1,000 deaths from blood loss or surgical complications. That’s why every woman who gets a recommendation for a hysterectomy should seek a second opinion. This is especially true if you are planning to have children.
The symptoms of fibroids can usually be managed without surgery. In fact, medications or minimally invasive treatment options are available and generally effective.
Myth 3: Fibroids will cause infertility.
Fact: It’s rare that fibroids interfere with a woman’s ability to conceive. Too often I see women who become pregnant unexpectedly, even though they had heard they could never have children because of fibroids.
Even if we have to remove the fibroids surgically, we can often leave the uterus intact for pregnancy.
Myth 4: ‘I’m having urgency of urination / constipation / other symptoms, so it must be fibroids.’
Fact: Having chest pain doesn’t always mean you’re having a heart attack. It’s the same with fibroids — the symptoms are common and could be associated with many different health conditions.
Urgency of urination, for example, can signal fibroids, but it can also be a sign of diabetes or result from obesity. Fibroids can cause constipation, but constipation is also associated with thyroid problems or a poor diet.
The bottom line
The most important thing that you can do is be proactive and vocal about your own healthcare.