There’s a lot of misinformation surrounding uterine fibroids, partly because it’s part of a silent epidemic that is often overlooked by healthcare providers and under discussed overall. July is Fibroid Awareness Month and in honor of that, we chatted Dr. Yan Katsnelson, founder and CEO of USA Clinics Group (the parent company of USA Fibroid Centers) and founder of the Fibroids Fighters Foundation, which works to advance the cause of women’s health and effective treatment of uterine fibroids.
According to Dr. Katnelson, it appears that misconceptions concerning fibroids are almost as frequent as fibroids themselves, which affect 70 to 80 percent of women by the age of 50. Fibroids present a major healthcare problem as the most prevalent pelvic tumors in women of reproductive age and are the leading cause of hysterectomies in the U.S.
“There is a lot of misinformation about fibroids because awareness and education is needed – both for women and health care providers,” says Dr. Katnelson. “Fibroids are extremely common in women, but important conversations haven’t been taking place about what they are and how they are treated.”
We chatted with Dr. Katnelson on what exactly uterine fibroids are; misconceptions; and how things like diet and overall consumption can play a part in fibroids. Here’s what he had to say.
For someone who doesn’t know much about fibroids, how would you describe it?
Uterine fibroids are a form of noncancerous growth that occurs in or on the walls of the uterus. Fibroids can exert pressure on adjacent organs, affect fertility, and create painful symptoms including heavy periods, severe menstrual cramps, frequent urination, or poor energy levels.
What is the cause of them or has that been discovered yet?
There are a variety of factors that contribute to fibroids developing. Research has shown that genetics can be a strong contributor to the development of uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroid growth seems to depend mostly on the influence of steroid hormones and selected growth factors. While more research is needed, this is what we do know is that a person may have one or multiple fibroids.
They can be small or grow over time to the size of a grapefruit or larger. Moreover, fibroids are more common from age 30 to the age at which menopause begins. It is unclear how they originate, but they seem to develop when estrogen levels are higher.
What are some of the most common misconceptions that women have about fibroids?
The number one misconception women often have is that fibroids are cancerous. Fibroids are benign growths and do not cause uterine cancer. Another huge misconception women have about fibroids is that a hysterectomy is the only effective treatment. The best treatment recognized for fibroids is nonsurgical Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), an effective, safe treatment that doesn’t remove the uterus.
Lastly, there’s a common believe is that women can’t get pregnant with fibroids. While many women do have successful pregnancies, fibroids can present complications for both the mother and child, depending on size and location. Women with fibroids are also much more likely to miscarry during early pregnancy. That’s why early detection and treatment is extremely beneficial for women before they decide to start a family.
Does diet at all play a role in fibroids? Are there certain foods that are better than others to hopefully prevent fibroids in the body?
Scientists who study the transmission of diseases believe there are many factors linked to the development of fibroids. A large government study concluded that diet (including soy, red meat, dairy, caffeine, alcohol consumption as well as fat, minerals, fruits and vegetables) was inconclusive in evidence regarding preventing fibroid development and growth.
Clearly, more research is needed to understand all the risk factors that contribute to fibroid formation and how they exactly influence their onset and growth. Future research into modifiable risk factors, such as diet and lifestyle choices, may shed light on the prevention.
What is your opinion on how connected food is to fibroids?
For now, we know that diet cannot cure fibroids. Treatment is the only proven method to eliminating fibroids which impair the quality of life and have potential life-threatening side effects. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recognized UFE as the proven safe and effective option that should be offered to symptomatic patients with uterine fibroids.
Women need to know that there is an effective fibroid treatment that allows them to regain a symptom-free lifestyle without undergoing a hysterectomy.
When it comes to women’s health in general, what would you say are the best guidelines to follow in terms of overall diet?
Choosing health foods and drinks can help prevent or manage many health problems that affect women. Healthy eating means choosing different types including fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and proteins. Healthy eating also means not eating a lot of foods with added sugar, sodium and saturated and trans fats.
Taking care of your uterine health, just like healthy eating, can help women feel better. State-of-the art UFE takes less than an hour, can shrink fibroids, cure painful fibroid symptoms and leave the uterus intact.