WHEN we hear of uterine fibroids we often think of non-cancerous tumours that result in pain and heavy bleeding in women of reproductive age. And when we think of oestrogen, the female hormones made in the ovaries come to mind.
But according to obstetrician-gynaecologist (ObGyn) Dr Jordan Hardie, oestrogen, though it is responsible for the female secondary sexual characteristics — breast development, body contouring, hair under the armpits and pubic hair growth and plays a major role in the menstrual cycle — as well as the prevention of osteoporosis (weakening of the bones) and the prevention of heart disease in women, it also stimulates the growth of uterine fibroids.
Dr Hardie said women with uterine fibroids may experience symptoms such as heavy menstrual periods, severe pain associated with their menstrual period, increasing abdominal girth, constipation, and frequent urination.
He explained that increased oestrogen levels which allow fibroids to grow are usually found in women who are obese, taking hormonal contraception, have ovarian cancer, or an increased dietary intake.
Oestrogen is normally regulated or controlled by the woman’s menstrual cycle, which is an interplay between various hormones.
The ObGyn explained that if oestrogen is causing your fibroids to grow, the choice of treatment will depend on the age of the patient, future fertility desires and the symptoms the patient is experiencing.
Though many people think that a hysterectomy or removal of the womb is the best treatment method, Dr Hardie said though it is one of many treatment modalities, someone wishing to have children can explore other options.
“Patients who desire future fertility may do a myomectomy (which is removal of the fibroids). For patients with uterine fibroids they should discuss with their gynaecologist the method of treatment that is best for them,” he said.
There are others who subscribe to the school of thought that proper dieting alone can do the trick, but Dr Hardie said while a general improvement in health and wellness will be seen in patients who change their diet, the impact of dietary change is not predictable or consistent in patients with uterine fibroids. “Some patients may note an improvement in their symptoms and some patients may not, and for those who do notice a change in their symptoms, this may be due to an overall improvement in their health. But no research has demonstrated a definitive answer to this question,” he said. “A healthy diet will improve the general health and wellness of the patient, but it may not improve the symptoms a patient experiences due to uterine fibroids.”