When my wife went for a physical exam in September 2000 to have her frequent incontinence and recurring abdominal pain diagnosed, our family doctor told Clara that she might have uterine fibroid tumors. Because he assured her that fibroids are benign, Clara and I werenТt horribly afraid that her health was in great danger. But my wife and I hoped to start a family soon. Would the tumors compromise her fertility or complicate pregnancy? Determined not to be defeated by our situation, Clara and I set out to learn everything we could about fibroids.
What Are Uterine Fibroid Tumors?
Medical slang for leiomyoma (or simply myoma), the word fibroid refers to anything fibrous-like, such as muscle. Leio means Уsmooth,Ф and my means Уmuscle.Фа The uterus is mostly muscle, and, due to its rich blood supply, is the site where fibroid tumors usually form. Fibroids may grow in the smooth outer – or innermost layers of the uterus; they may protrude into the abdominal cavity; and may sometimes form outside of the uterus, where they can attach to the cervix or other pelvic organs.
Reports indicate that fibroids occur in 77% of all women, and in 20% of women of childbearing age. Of women 35 and older, 20% to 40% have fibroids. Symptoms typically donТt develop until women are in their late 30s or early 40s. When fibroids cause no unbearable symptoms and pose no serious health risks, doctors often recommend leaving them alone. My wife, however, was increasingly losing that option.
Getting A Second And Third Opinion
When Clara started experiencing extra painful menstrual cramps and unusually heavy menses late in 1999, we thought that her problems might be due to ClaraТs recent change of birth control pills, and that, in time, she would adjust to the new prescription. But her periods progressively worsened.
Clara also started experiencing urinary incontinence, which, though minor at first, became so frequent that she had to wear and change sanitary pads several times a day. Clara visited her gynecologist for some answers. After an inconclusive examination, he referred her to a urologist, who, after subjecting Clara to a battery of tests, recommended bladder surgery. Clara and I decided to get a third opinion.
Surprisingly, it took a general practitioner, our family doctor, to correctly diagnose ClaraТs ailment. When Clara and I read about the signs and symptoms of fibroids, we were stunned that two medical specialists had misdiagnosed her condition.
Signs And Symptoms Include:
- Heavy, painful bleeding during menstruation
- Bleeding between periods
- The passage of blood clots
- Anemia caused by blood loss during menstruation
- Fullness in the lower abdomen or back
- Back, thigh, or leg pain caused by nerve compression
- Urinary frequency and/or incontinence
- Painful intercourse
- Difficulty conceiving
Except for the latter two, Clara had endured degrees of these symptoms since late-1999. When a pelvic sonogram confirmed that she had at least three fibroids (the largest about the size of a tennis ball, the others each about as big around as a quarter), our next question was: What treatment options were available that would least compromise ClaraТs chances of having children?
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