What are Fibroids? Causes, symptoms and treatment of fibroids
5 Major Risk Factors For Fibroids, And Your Best Treatment Options
Chances are, if you're a woman reading this, you have—or had—uterine fibroids, since up to 80% of women of childbearing age develop them (the fibroids shrink and often disappear after menopause). Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors made of muscle and fibrous tissue growing abnormally in a woman's uterus. While hormones play an important role in the development of fibroids, genetics is also involved. Women whose mother or sisters have had fibroids are at higher risk. And research has found that some genes involved in fibroid development are passed from father to daughter, too.
Most fibroids cause no symptoms at all, and women may only find out they have them during a routine pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound. The safest way to treat these fibroids is to not treat them at all but simply have a physician monitor them. Small fibroids will probably never cause symptoms or require treatment. And because most fibroids shrink after menopause, if a woman is close to menopausal age, a wait-and-see approach may work best.
MORE:9 Facts About Fibroid Tumors Every Woman Needs To Know
In addition to watchful waiting when appropriate, women with fibroids can try to keep the growths in check by maintaining a healthy weight. Estrogen is metabolized in body fat, so the leaner you are, the less estrogen your body produces and the slower the fibroids will grow. Regular exercise can help with weight loss and may also lower estrogen levels. Reducing consumption of foods that may contain added growth hormones, such as nonorganic beef and full-fat dairy products, may help prevent fibroids or slow their growth. I recommend taking supplemental vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) in a dose of 2,000 IU daily, as adequate vitamin D levels may also help prevent fibroid development.
The 5 Major Risk Factors For Fibroids
There are some situations when fibroids do require treatment. First is when fibroids cause symptoms like pelvic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding (which can lead to anemia), and lower-back pain. Second is when a woman with large fibroids—even if they cause no symptoms—is hoping to become pregnant, since the growths may cause infertility or complicate pregnancy.
In the past, doctors often recommended hysterectomy for large or problematic fibroids. While fibroids remain the most common reason for a woman in the US to undergo hysterectomy, there are now many alternatives for treating these growths, including:
- Cutting off the fibroids' blood supply (called nonsurgical embolization or myolysis)
- Destroying the uterine lining to stop heavy bleeding (called endometrial ablation), which can be done using heat, electricity, or laser or by freezing
- Using noninvasive ultrasound to destroy the fibroids (called magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound)
- Surgically removing just the fibroids (called myomectomy)
MORE: 5 Reasons You Shouldn't Assume Your Unusually Heavy Period Is Normal
3 Foods To Avoid If You Have Fibroids
Growth hormones given to cattle can fuel fibroids if you eat:
Beef cattle may be treated with estrogen, testosterone, or other steroids.
Look for products from cows not treated with rBGH, used to increase milk production.
High-fat versions may contain more of the hormones given to cows.
ANDREW WEIL, MD, is founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona. Send your questions for Dr. Weil to .
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