What causes fibroids?
No one knows for sure what causes fibroids. Researchers have some theories, but most likely, fibroids are the result of many factors interacting with each other. These factors could be hormonal (affected by estrogen levels), genetic (running in families), environmental, or a combination of all three. Because no one knows for sure what causes fibroids, we also don’t know what causes them to grow or shrink. For the most part, fibroids stop growing or shrink after menopause. But, this is not true for all women with fibroids.
Can fibroids turn into cancer?
Fibroids are almost always benign, or not cancerous, and they rarely turn into cancer (less than 0.1 percent of cases). Having fibroids does not increase a woman’s chances of getting cancer of the uterus.
Who gets fibroids?
Most of the time, fibroids grow in women of childbearing age. While no one knows for sure what will increase a woman’s chances of getting fibroids, researchers have found that African American women are 2 to 3 times more likely to get them than women of other racial groups are. African American women also tend to get fibroids at a younger age than do other women with fibroids. Women who are overweight or obese also are at a slightly higher risk for fibroids than women who are not overweight. Women who have given birth appear to be at a lower risk for fibroids. Research is now being done to figure out who is at risk for fibroids.
Fibroids may require treatment in the following circumstances:
- Fibroids are growing large enough to cause pressure on other organs, such as the bladder.
- Fibroids are growing rapidly
- Fibroids are causing abnormal bleeding
- Fibroids are causing problems with fertility
Small fibroids often disappear spontaneously. Larger fibroids are more difficult to resolve, but not impossible to control with natural measures.
One woman’s fibroids (and menstrual cramps) disappeared within three months of beginning a vigorous exercise program. Exercise helps insure regular ovulation, and irregular ovulation seems to worsen fibroids.
Consuming three or more servings of whole grains or beans daily not only reduces the size of fibroids but offers protection from breast and endometrial cancers as well.
Red clover flowers (Trifolium pratense), are one of my favorite infusions, but use during the menopausal years may increase difficulty with fibroids.
Strengthening the liver with herbs such as dandelion, milk thistle seed, or yellow dock root helps it metabolize estrogen out of the body, thus reducing fibroids.
Ask someone to burn moxa over the area of the fibroid while you envision the heat releasing the treasures in your uterus. What is locked up in this fibroid? What can you give birth to?
Acupuncture treatments and Traditional Chinese Medicine can shrink fibroids
Reduce fibroids by reducing your exposure to estrogen: avoid birth control pills, ERT/HRT, estrogen-mimicing residues from herbicides and pesticides used on food crops (eat organically-raised products). Tampons
that are bleached with chlorine may mimic the bad effects of estrogen, too.
Lupron (leuprolide acetate), a drug which induces “artificial menopause” by shutting down the body’s production of estradiol causes a significant decrease in fibroid size within 8-12 weeks. Fibroids do regrow
to about 90 percent of their original size when the drug is withdrawn however.
Major advances have been made in surgical treatments for women with fibroids. There are many options now besides hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), including hysteroscopic resection, uterine embolization,
myomectomy, and suprecervical hysterectomy. Since these are fairly new procedures, take the time to find a surgeon who is skilled in the procedure.
Hysterectomy can be a life-saving procedure, but by the age of sixty, more than one-third of American women will have given up their wombs to the surgeons. The presence of non-symptomatic fibroids is never
sufficient reason, to my mind, for a hysterectomy. Of my students and apprentices who have had hysterectomies because of fibroids, those who “did their homework” – that is, helped themselves before and after their surgery with all the tools at their disposal – seemed to fare much better than those
who did not.
With very few exceptions, no woman is healthier without her ovaries. So, even if you elect a hysterectomy, keep your ovaries.
Dr. Olivia Wan-Mei Woo