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Fibroids: What Every Woman Needs to Know

Whether it is you, a girlfriend or a relative, chances are you know someone who is living with fibroids. It is estimated that up to 80% of all women will develop fibroids at some point before the age of 50. Many women living with fibroids do not experience any symptoms. But for others, fibroids can cause pain, menstrual problems and, in some rare cares, infertility.

So what is a fibroid, exactly? It is a muscular tumor that grows in the wall of the uterus. Fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous). They can grow as a single tumor or mass – or there may be several of them growing at once. They also vary in size. Some are as small as an apple seed while others may grow as large as a grapefruit.

Small fibroids typically cause few, if any, problems. However women living with larger fibroids or several fibroids may experience abdominal pain and discomfort. Fibroids put pressure on the bladder, which can cause frequent urination, or on the rectum, which can cause rectal discomfort. When fibroids get very large, they can actually cause the abdomen to enlarge, forming what may look like a pregnancy belly.

No one knows exactly what causes fibroids, but researchers believe it may be a combination of a woman's changing hormones mixed with a genetic predisposition. Doctors also aren't sure why fibroids often grow or shrink. Often fibroids will grow rapidly while a woman is pregnant (when hormones are high) and will usually shrink during menopause (when hormones decline).

While it is not known why certain women develop fibroids while others don't, there are several factors that can increase a woman's risk:

  • Age: Women are most likely to develop fibroids beginning in their 30s and 40s and continuing through menopause.

  • Family History: If you have a mother, grandmother or sister with fibroids, you are at greater risk of developing them yourself. In fact, if a woman's mother had fibroids, her risk of developing fibroids increases three-fold.

  • Ethnic Origin: African-American women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women.

  • Obesity: Being overweight increases a woman's risk for fibroids. For very obese women, the risk is two to three times greater than average.

  • Eating Habits: Eating a lot of red meat has been linked to a higher risk of fibroids, while eating lots of green vegetables appears to decrease a woman's risk.

Often times, women are not even aware that they have fibroids. But some women may experience symptoms, depending on the size and quantity of fibroids.

Symptoms may include:

  • Heavy and/or painful periods
  • Feeling of fullness in the pelvic area
  • Enlargement of lower abdomen
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Lower back pain
  • Complications during pregnancy and labor
  • Reproductive problems (rare)

Typically, fibroids are discovered during a woman's annual pelvic exam. The diagnosis is then confirmed using imaging such as ultrasound or MRI. Although treatment is typically not necessary, if the fibroids are causing pain and discomfort treatment options may include medication or one of a variety of surgeries.

To learn more about fibroids and other problems "below the belt," attend one of Dignity Health's upcoming free seminars. Register today!

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Give Yourself the Gift of a Stress-Free Holiday!

If you are like most women, chances are you spend the holiday season struggling with stress, emotional ups and downs, and probably a little exhaustion. Of course, all of us would rather that the season be filled with family memories, quiet moments and the joy of time with loved ones. This year, make a promise to yourself – make this the year that you focus more on the moments and the happiness, and less on the stress and to-do list!

The best thing you can do is start now – spend some time prioritizing the activities, events and people who are most important to you. Give yourself permission to NOT send a card to every person you have ever met and to NOT have to buy the perfect gift for every friend and family member. Remember that the point of the holiday season is not materialism but rather expressions of love and reconnection. If you use that as the basis for your prioritizing, you will soon find that what is important to you becomes more clear.

Now that you have your priorities laid out, start early! If sending cards is important to you, begin addressing envelopes now – in early November. Even if your photo card isn't done yet, having the envelopes addressed early gives you a great head start. And once you have your shopping list narrowed down, carry it with you at all times – you never know when you might spot just the perfect gift for your best friend or your dear aunt.

Another great strategy for preventing holiday stress is to delegate. If you have tasks around the house that need to be done, have your children lend a hand. If your shopping list is stressing you out, pass a few items off to your spouse. If it is your workload that is keeping you up at night, talk to your colleagues about ways you can help each other during the busy holiday season. Search for collaborative solutions and know that not everything must be done by you!

Another trap that we often fall into during the stretch of time from Thanksgiving through New Year's is thinking that we can and we must visit every relative within driving distance! Choose one or two important destinations and then politely decline other invitations. Travelling during the holiday season can add stress, particularly if you have young children. Know your limits and how much travel is too much. Conversely, while it can seem easier to just have an open-door policy at your own home, know that this too can lead to holiday fatigue. If you are start to see your calendar book up with dinners and overnight guests in your home, consider scheduling some "neutral site" gatherings. A meal out at a restaurant or a weekend afternoon at a park is often more relaxing for everyone involved.

Finally, plan ahead for a couple activities that are meaningful or reward to YOU! Consider what will be most relaxing or festive for you this holiday season... Does it not feel like the holidays until you've seen the Nutcracker? Then buy your tickets now! Do you enjoy an afternoon of shopping during the week when the stores are less crowded? Then put it on your calendar now and don't let anything bump it! Or do you just need a quiet night at home with your family, enjoying a holiday DVD or baking cookies together? Then mark the date and stick to it! Whatever it is that will make you feel fulfilled this holiday season, make the time and do it. It can be your gift to yourself!

One great way to treat yourself is by making plans to join us at the Care Begins With Me Holiday Shopping Soiree on Thursday, Dec. 4 at the Palladio. Register today for this exclusive event and enjoy appetizers, desserts, wine and beverages, as well as a stylish holiday swag bag, raffle drawings and discounts from Palladio merchants. We hope to see you there!

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