|According to a new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, uterine fibroids affect up to 80% of women over the age of 50, but many delay seeking out treatment to relieve their symptoms because they’re afraid of the unknown.
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that originate in the uterus. Though many times they’re not cause for alarm, they can cause serious symptoms depending on where they develop and how large. Some women may experience pelvic discomfort, bladder problems, lower back pain, rectal pressure, and even abnormal bleeding so heavy that sanitary pads become soaked through in an hour. Consequently, uterine fibroids can have a huge impact on a woman’s quality of life.
Although there are several different treatments for fibroids, the new study found that women worry about how these procedures may affect their careers, or their sexual function. They also fear that their only option may be a hysterectomy, a surgical procedure that removes the uterus.
“A lot of patients who come to me may have gone into the emergency room and were diagnosed with fibroid tumors, but still have concerns and questions, such as ‘Are these cancerous?’” Dayton OB-Gyn’s Dr. Michael Thesing told the Dayton Daily News. “They also have a fear about their health, their body image and what possible treatment might mean to their day-to-day quality of life.”
Of the main concerns women have, he said, is that they’ll have to undergo a hysterectomy and lose their uterus. After all, fibroids do account for about half of the some 600,000 hysterectomy procedures performed each year throughout the United States. Worse, another recent study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that about 34% of all hysterectomies were performed unnecessarily. In other words, more than one in three women had their uterus removed when they didn’t need to.
The biggest issue is the fact that there are effective alternatives out there. Too many women are continuing to suffer needlessly, or receiving surgery they don’t need, when there outpatient procedures, such as radiofrequency ablation, that can eliminate all the fibroids, and just the fibroids.
“Women need to know that there is hope for their condition and that fibroids do not have to dictate their quality of life,” said Dr. Thesing. “The sooner they are able to be seen, the quicker they can receive relief.”