Fibroids may be the most common reason for hysterectomy, as they account for 27 to 33 percent of the total number per-formed. “Fibroids” is the common term for benign tumors that are medically known as myomas or leiomyomas. They grow in the muscle tissue of the uterus. Fibroids are very common. One woman in four or five develops them, and for some reason black women seem to get fibroids more often than white women. Having a fibroid does not mean you need a hysterectomy.
You may have fibroids and never know it at all. Small fibroids can cause some symptoms, such as a feeling of heaviness in the pelvic area, or irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding, or pain in the bladder or rectum. If you go back to the drawing of the pelvic cavity, you will see that the uterus lies very close to the bladder and the rectum. It will be closer to one or the other depending on which way it is tipped or lying in the pelvic cavity. If it is enlarged because of fibroids, it can press on the bladder or rectum, causing discomfort or pain.
What Does Fibroids Do In Our Body?
Fibroids generally grow very slowly. They are also related to estrogen, and they shrink in size during menopause. If you have fibroids that are beginning to give you trouble but you arc forty-eight years old, you might be able to last it out until meno-pause shrinks the fibroids. If you are twenty-eight and the fibroids are giving you a great deal of trouble, then your costs and bene-fits will appear in a different light. Because fibroids are affected by estrogen, if you are taking estrogen replacement drugs or have recently been taking birth control pills and discover the fibroids are growing more rapidly, it might make sense to stop the estrogen and see what happens. If fibroids grow rapidly without estrogen drugs, that would arouse medical concern about a possibility of precancerous condition.
A medical alternative for fibroids can be an operation called myomectomy. Myomectomy is surgical removal of the fibroid tumor itself. Sometimes this is not possible, particularly if the fibroid has grown within the walls of the uterus. Hysterectomy is a more commonly performed and easier operation for doctors to do. It is hard to find doctors who are familiar and practiced at doing myomectomy. Doctors are taught to suggest myomcctomy only if the woman has not had the children she wants. This is one of the ways in which doctors’ judgment about women’s roles may interfere with good medical practice.
It may be that for many women myomcctomy makes the most sense. Yet doctors’ assumptions are that the uterus has only one function and that is reproduction. Al-though certainly it is important to retain our childbearing capacity if we want to have children, medical practice should not be based on the assumption that the uterus is useless except for childbearing and that it has no symbolic significance and no physical sensation. In fact, the uterus has many functions, including sexual ones.