What Are Fibroids? How I Live With Them...
Fibroids. You may have them. Know someone who has them...or never heard of them.
They're common growths, with 77% of women developing one during their childbearing years. They develop in the uterus, as growths of smooth muscle and fibrous connective tissue. They can be singular or in groups. They can be all sorts of sizes, shapes and in different parts of the uterus.
They can be tiny, less than a centimetre. Or large...like mine, which is 7cm. They can grow into the uterine cavity, or outwards in the abdominal cavity on a stalk.
It is easy for these to go undiagnosed, as most are too small to be noted on physical exam.
Why do fibroids grow?
Short answer, not sure. Some research shows that estrogen can impact an abnormal muscle to multiply rapidly and grow into these benign tumors.
Who gets them?
Women in reproductive age ranges are the most likely to develop these growths.
Other risk factors may include:
Family history of fibroids
Diet high in red meat
High blood pressure
What does it feel like?
A lot of women with fibroids don't even know they have them. Others experience horrible, severe symptoms. These can include: heavy/prolonged periods, bleeding between periods, abdominal discomfort/fullness, pelvic pain, low back pain, bladder symptoms, bowel symptoms. Infertility, pregnancy complications and pain during sex can also be experienced.
So if they're usually small and not found on physical exam, how do you know if you have fibroids? A lot of women have them diagnosed via imaging...ultrasounds, MRI or similar. It can be an incidental finding, or what your doctor is looking for if you have the above symptoms.
If you have fibroids, it will depend on your health goals on what happened next. If they were found incidentally, you don't have symptoms, and there's no impact on fertility, then typically doctors will recommend a watch and wait style of treatment.
If you DO have symptoms, like pain or heavy bleeding, there are a few options. Something like birth control or an IUD can manage excessive bleeding, where surgical removal can also be of benefit if a large fibroid is present.
For some women, fibroids can impact their ability to conceive, and if they do get pregnant can cause the baby to have a hard time moving around in the womb if the fibroid pushes into the uterine cavity.
If you do suffer from pelvic pain, low back pain, and other symptoms, ask your doctor for imaging. Pelvic floor physiotherapist, acupuncturists and chiropractors can be VERY helpful if you are not a surgical candidate or are waiting for surgery
My Fibroid story
In January 2019, I started suffering from debilitating left sided pelvic pain. It was getting in the way of work, exercise...life in general. Finally one day, I was in so much pain I left the clinic early and drove myself to urgent care. I knew I had ovarian cysts, I'd been diagnosed with PCOS years prior, but this felt different
After waiting a couple of hours, the NP I saw suggested an ultrasound. Which I got the next day. A few days later, I went in to see my family doctor, and she noted tissue that looked like possibly endometriosis (more on that in a future post). I was started on Yasmin (hormonal contraceptive) to help control the pain, and placed on the list for a pelvic MRI.
Fast forward to May 2020, smack in the middle of COVID, and I finally got my MRI completed. The Yasmin was working...but as time progressed it was starting to not be as helpful and my pain was returning. I did my research, and found an excision specialist in Calgary named Dr. Thurston, and asked to be referred to her.
September 2021, I finally got my phone consult. This is why I found out I had a 7cm fibroid, off a stalk, on my left side. Where all my pain is. Dr. Thurston suggested this could be a significant contributing factor to my pain given the size (for my age, they usually don't get that big that fast), and surgical removal would be the best option. While they're in there removing the fibroid, she would also search for any endometriosis tissue. We also discussed switching to an IUD, as the Yasmin was giving me some side effects I didn't like.
Now, it's June 2022. My surgery is expected for the fall. My fibroid is still 7cm, and now starting to go through something called cystic degeneration. This is when the fibroid outgrows its vascular supply and starts to die, and sometimes it can cause severe swelling and pain.
I still have chronic and near consistent pain. I'm tired a lot. And my digestion gets thrown off too.
My heating pad is my best friend, sometimes Advil doesn't even put a dent in the pain, and I nap a lot. I work to take supplements to help support my health on a regular basis, and exercise when I can. I also do regular massage, acupuncture and neurofeedback that is helping me with pain management.
I hope my story, and this little piece of knowledge can help you advocate for yourself if you're having pain or already know you have fibroids.
DISCLAIMER: This information is intended to be educational, NOT medical advice. Always communicate with your health care professional about your health when making changes.
Dr. Samantha De Castro is a licensed chiropractor and doctor of chiropractic, but she is not YOUR chiropractor. She can not diagnose you. This does not replace being seen by your own health care provider. This information should not be used too self-diagnose or self-treat. This is informational ONLY and we do not accept responsibility for any outcomes.