This type of benign tumor can be found in at least 1 in 5 women by age 50

This type of benign tumor can be found in at least 1 in 5 women by age 50

Joanne led a perfectly healthy and happy life, working as a full-time personal banker by day and honing her penchant for cooking by night.

But all that came to a screeching halt last summer, when she started experiencing intense symptoms, including more frequent and heavy menstruating, painful cramping and pressure in her lower abdomen.

These symptoms intensified over time. Six months later, Joanne made an appointment to have things checked out. What the doctor found floored her.

“My doctor made the diagnosis that I had uterine fibroids,” Joanne says. “At that time, I had five fibroids, one of which measured 10 cm in August. Fast forward to today, that same fibroid has grown, and it’s now 16 cm. The doctor equated it to a 22-week pregnancy.”

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that can grow in and on various parts of a woman’s uterus. While uterine fibroids are quite common, with as many as one in five women having fibroids during their childbearing years, the condition is three times more common in African American women, says Dr. Abraham Shashoua, a urogynecologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, Ill.

But for Joanne, who is part African American, the physical symptoms were just the tip of the iceberg.

“Some days, I’m so bloated that I can’t wear my normal clothes. Some days, I’m so nauseous from everything I eat, and I’ve already lost 12 pounds because of that. The fibroids affected my mood, too,” she says.

Joanne did her own research to understand her condition and the best resources for treating uterine fibroids. She was eventually led to Dr. Shashoua, who frequently performs minimally invasive surgery to remove uterine fibroids. However, in Joanne’s case, he suggested an open surgery approach rather than the minimally invasive approach.

“Minimally invasive surgery is a very safe, very effective way to treat many types of diseases and conditions, including uterine fibroids,” says Dr. Shashoua. “However, since Joanne had a large 16-cm fibroid among several others, I recommended an open approach to ensure safe removal of the largest fibroid.”

Joanne hopes her story encourages other women, especially African American women, to be more attentive to changes to their bodies.

“Sometimes, you realize something is wrong, and you go into panic mode and you ignore it. I probably ignored my symptoms longer than I should have,” Joanne says. “My message to others is, if you notice something wrong, go see your doctor as soon as you can.”

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About the Author

Jaimie Oh
Jaimie Oh

Jaimie Oh, health enews contributor, is regional manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Health Care. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has nearly a decade of experience working in publishing, strategic communications and marketing. Outside of work, Jaimie trains for marathons with the goal of running 50 races before she turns 50 years old.