Learn what uterine fibroids are and why women should know about how to control them.
“I’m so tired all the time, Doc!” Fran exclaimed at my last office visit with her. Fran is a rather healthy 42-year old, so I needed to ask her some questions to figure out what specifically was causing her fatigue.
“Are your periods heavy, Fran?”
“Nope, they are normal, same as ever.”
I sent Fran to get a blood test, and next thing I knew, I was calling her because she was severely anemic. (She had a hemoglobin level of 6—a normal level in women is over 12.) I advised her to go to the emergency room right away for a blood transfusion.
What’s a Normal Period?
I asked her again about her periods, but this time, I asked her very specific details, including how many pads/tampons she goes through in a typical day. Fran told me she changes her pads every two hours, and that sometimes she needs to use a pad and tampon together at the same time.
“But Fran, you told me that your periods weren’t heavy.”
“Well, they’re not, Doc. That’s just how they always have been ever since I can remember! Isn’t everyone like this?”
From then on, I learned to never simply ask if my patients’ periods are simply “heavy or not.” I now ask exactly how many tampons/pads they go through and how many days their periods last.
I sent Fran for an ultrasound of the pelvis, and she ended up having exactly what I suspected – a fibroid tumor of the uterus.
What Are Fibroids?
Fibroids are tumors arising from the muscle layers of the uterus, and are otherwise known as Leiomyomas. There are two types of “tumors” generally described in medicine--those that are benign, meaning they are not cancerous, and those that are malignant, which are cancerous. Fibroid tumors are benign tumors and they do not become cancerous.