WARNING – graphic images
If not, you are not alone.
I had never heard of them either, until I found out I had one. Not many women know alot about them, yet it is so common that up to 80% of women will have them and most will go undiagnosed and unnoticed.
In most cases, you may not have any symptoms, which is great. For some, you may have a lot of symptoms but think that it’s normal for women to experience these. In other cases (like my own), you may have unusual symptoms that you would never assume would be a tumor and so it goes undiagnosed and it grows out of control until your options are very limited.
Fibroids are usually benign tumors, however on the rare occasion they can be malignant. They usually form in a women’s child baring years and can effect fertility and your overall general health and well-being. They can come in many shapes and sizes, most are quite small and can grow up to grapefruit size. You can have one, or you can have many. I was in the minority that I just had one that grew very big.
Some symptoms can be heavy, long or painful periods, pelvic pressure, bloating/ swelling in your abdomen, pressure on your lower back, bladder or bowel and low iron/anemia.
For me, I had put on a lot of weight all in my belly. I thought I was just getting fat… only in my belly. Not in a million years would I have ever thought it was anything significant or life threatening.
On top of this, I had severe bloating for the past 5 months. When I saw doctors they would just tell me it’s normal for women to experience bloating. “It’s just what we have to deal with” said one GP as she wrote a prescription for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) medication.
For 7 years I struggled with headaches and migraines. I had headaches daily and migraines almost every other week, sometimes more often. I also struggled with Gerd which is a form of severe indigestion. I couldn’t eat many foods, and as time went by, it got progressively worse until I could barely eat anything without having excruciating pain that felt like I was having a heart attack. On multiple occasions, I actually was seconds off calling an ambulance thinking I was really having a heart attack.
Time and again doctors would give me medications to try and prevent the migraines and gerd. They would tell me I had depression and try and give me anti depression medications. They would simply try to pump me full of drugs to mask the symptoms, rather than look for the actual cause.
If they looked further in to it, they would have found a giant tumor pushing on and suffocating all my organs causing severe indigestion, bloating, headaches and migraines.
One doctor even took blood and said I was low in iron, and then tried to convince me it was because I had heavy periods. Sorry for too much information but that was not the case. I told him over and over and he said there is no other reason, so it ‘had’ to be that.
Turns out there WAS another reason, and after seeing my 5th or 6th doctor in as many months, a gynocologist and an oncologist, I found out that I had a giant tumor sucking up all my blood. The tumour was 6kgs and 34cm in diameter.
Unless you are specific and ask your doctor to check for fibroids, they won’t. If I knew about fibroids 2, 5, 10 years ago, I might have asked to be checked for them and may have caught it when it was alot smaller and might have saved myself a hysterectomy and major surgery at such a young age. If I had çaught it earlier, it could have been a lot less scary to go through.
I am not writing this to scare you or to tell you that you have fibroids, I’m simply writing this to bring awareness to other women, that if you notice any symptoms and you cannot pin point why you are feeling this way, ask your doctor for a blood test and ultrasound.
Most women will go through their young adult years thinking that they only have to have a pap smear every two years, and that is fine if you aren’t having any problems, but fibroids will not necessarily be picked up with a pap smear. A full blood test and a pelvic ultrasound will give you the best results. Following on from that, your gp/gyno will send you for an MRI if needed.
There are no known causes, although it is thought that fibroids can be hereditary. Obesity, diabetes and age can be other factors and doctors understand that they grow during your fertile years and tend to shrink a little after menopause.
For me, my little monster had grown too big for its own good. It was using so much of my blood to keep itself growing that it was killing itself off in the middle to keep getting bigger. It grew to 34cm and doctors told me if I didn’t catch it, it would have just kept growing. It was already gangrene in the middle, so it could have been a very different story for me.
In some rare cases, fibroids can be malignant. One of my surgeons was unsure if mine was or not due to some signs on the MRI. Because of this, she informed me that there was a chance it could be a very aggressive cancer and that 60% of patients would only live up to 5 years after diagnosis. This was a hard concept to grasp, but luckily I am here to tell the story as even though large, it was benign.
So please, share this post with as many women (and there wonderful husband’s, and male family members) to bring awareness to fibroids, it’s not normal to experience any of these symptoms, so if you are suffering in silence, please go and see your gp and ask to be tested. It’s better to know about it now and monitor the situation than find out when it is too late.
WARNING – graphic images.
This is the 6kg fibroid I had removed.