A uterine fibroid is benign (non-cancerous) tumor that originates from the smooth muscle layer and the accompanying connective tissue of the uterus. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services states that "Fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous)."
Reasons for Fibroids
Estrogen, a female hormone is linked to fibroid growth. They are found during the middle and later reproductive years of females, but the reasons why women get fibroids in the first place are not known, however, women are more likely to get fibroids if:
1. They are African- Caribbean (African-Caribbean women are three times more likely than Caucasian women to get fibroids).
2. They are overweight (It is thought that they occur in heavier women as a result of higher oestrogen levels).
3. They are in their 30s or 40s
4. They had an early puberty
5. They have no children
Research has not proven why fibroids are more common in African- Caribbean women but there are some speculations. Some studies suggest that black women who are obese and who have high blood pressure are more likely to have fibroids. Additionally, national surveys show that black women consume fewer servings of dairy than white women and have lower intake of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
Boston University School of Medicine researchers found that increased dairy intake in African- Caribbean women decreases their risk of fibroids.
Additionally, research evidence has demonstrated that women with a family history of fibroids are twice more likely to develop fibroids than women with no family history- thus perpetuating the cycle of fibroid prevalence in African- Caribbeans. However, although there is much speculation much more research must be done to determine why fibroid prevalence is higher in African- Caribbean women.
Symptoms of Fibroids
Most fibroids do not have any symptoms, especially when small. Women get symptoms depending on the location and size of the fibroids. Likely symptoms are:
1. Heavy or painful periods (sometimes leading to anemia)
2. Abdominal discomfort or bloating
3. Painful defacation and constipation (if a fibroid is pressing on your rectum).
4. Back ache
• Urinary frequency or retention (This can happen if a fibroid is pressing on your bladder).
5. Pain during intercourse, depending on the location of the fibroid
During pregnancy they may be the cause of miscarriage, bleeding, premature labor, or interference with the position of the fetus.
Types of Fibroids
Fibroids are named according to where they are found in your womb.
1. Intramural fibroids grow within the muscular wall of your womb.
2. Subserous fibroids grow from the outside wall of your womb into your pelvic cavity. They can become very large.
3. Submucosal fibroids grow from the inner wall of your womb into the space inside your womb.
4. Pedunculated fibroids grow from the outside of your womb. These fibroids are almost free of the wall of your womb and are only attached by a narrow stalk.
5. Cervical fibroids develop in the wall of the cervix (the neck of the womb).
Diagnosis of Fibroids
A doctor could use, an internal examination, an ultrasound scan or an MRI scan to diagnose fibroids.
Treatment of Fibroids
Doctors could use, medicines and/or surgery (e.g. Uterine artery embolization, Endometrial ablation or resection, Myomectomy, Hysterectomy) to treat fibroids, but please do your own research and consult more than one doctor before you decide on what to do.
1. Uterine artery embolisation (UAE): This procedure blocks the blood supply to a fibroid, causing it to shrink. It's performed under local anaesthesia, meaning that feeling in the area will be completely blocked but you will stay awake during the operation. UAE gives relief from symptoms such as bleeding and pain for at least six in every 10 women treated. To consider this method of treatment, please visit http://www.fibroids.co.uk/ , to read and watch Dr. W.J Walker.
2. Endometrial ablation or resection: Endometrial ablation is a procedure to remove most of the lining of your womb or to destroy or remove an individual fibroid using energy such as microwaves or heat. During an endometrial resection, the lining of your womb or the fibroid is actually cut away.
3. Myomectomy: A myomectomy is an operation to remove fibroids, leaving your womb in place. It may be done through a cut in your tummy, or sometimes it may be possible for your surgeon to use keyhole surgery. Myomectomy is usually only offered to women who would like the option to become pregnant in the future. Because your womb isn't removed there is a chance that more fibroids will grow in the future, so you may need to have further treatment.
4. Hysterectomy: A hysterectomy is a major operation to remove your entire womb, usually via a 'bikini-line' cut in your abdomen or, if the fibroids aren't too large, via your vagina. It's not possible to get pregnant after a hysterectomy.
Foods that help Fibroids shrink
Researchers says that fibroids shrink with age, but when we have not reached that age, there are foods that may help retard the growth of uterine fibroids.
MayoClinic.com says that while some people believe that dietary changes help ease uterine fibroids, a positive link has not been established. Uterine fibroids may be caused by too much estrogen in the body, and decreasing dietary sources of estrogen can decrease symptoms.
These food include:
1. Fiber – Foods high in fiber may lower the body's exposure to estrogen. Foods high in fiber are kidney beans, black beans and pinto beans, raspberries, apples, blueberries, oranges, grapefruit, brussels sprouts, onions, cucumbers, Whole grains, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.
2. Vitamin C - According to Dr. Marilyn Glenville, an added benefit of vitamin C is that it can help reduce heavy bleeding, a common symptom associated with fibroids. Foods rich in vitamin C include cauliflower, broccoli, cranberries, summer squash, pineapple, spinach, red peppers, strawberries etc.
3. Phytoestrogens - These helps reduce the impact of estrogen in your body by binding to your body's estrogen receptors. Foods high in phytoestrogens include soy beans, alfalfa, pinto beans and black beans.
4. Indoles - are enzymes that convert the strongest form of estrogen, known as estradiol, into a weaker form known as estrone. Foods that contain estrogen-deactivating indoles include cabbage, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnips etc.
The Healthy Wellbeing
1. British Fibroid Trust
2. Bupa, 'Fibroids',
3. Mayo Clinic, ‘Uterine Fibroids’, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/uterine-fibroids/DS00078/DSECTION=alternative-medicine
4. nhs choices, 'Fibroids',
5. Uterine Fibroids Specialist Website, http://www.fibroids.co.uk/
6. ‘What nutritional foods help uterine fibroids shrink?’, http://www.livestrong.com/article/261530-what-nutritional-foods-help-uterine-fibroids-shrink/