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Health care advocates suggest medical collaboration to treat fibroids

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Farah Siddiqi

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(Missouri News Service) May is Women's Health Month and more than 26 million women in the United States have fibroids.

Fibroids are benign growths, typically in the uterus and reproductive organs and fewer than half of the people diagnosed have even heard of them. In Missouri, state law since 2009 permits the health department to disseminate information about fibroids and treatment options.

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Dr. Yan Katsnelson, founder of the nonprofit Fibroid Fighters, said fibroids should not limit anyone living life to its fullest potential. He added although many women can be symptom-free, about half will experience fibroid-related health concerns.

"It's typically presented with a prolonged and heavy menstrual period; frequent urination, bloating, pain during intercourse, and very often with miscarriages," Katsnelson outlined. "It's extremely common."

Fibroids are easily diagnosed with an ultrasound. Up to 70 percent of white women, and more than 80 percent of Black women in the U.S. have uterine fibroids, making the condition more prevalent than high blood pressure and breast or ovarian cancer.

Malorie Bailey, a fibroid patient, described her symptoms.

"I refused to have the hysterectomy," Bailey recounted. "I said, 'OK, well, I'll be 50 soon; I guess menopause probably would stop it.' In my case, it didn't. It got worse. Still bleeding, and it went from I started changing (pads) every 10 minutes for five days."

In past years, the primary treatment for fibroids was a hysterectomy.

Dr. Jacob White, interventional radiologist at the USA Fibroid Center in New York City, said it is no longer the case.

"You have to know your options," White urged. "You have to make sure you do your own research, be your own advocate, and get second and third opinions, to make sure you know all the treatment options available to you so you can make an informed decision. Otherwise, you may not learn about the minimally invasive treatment options, like uterine fibroid embolization."

Even Congress has taken up the issue of fibroids, with legislation in the House last year which would have boosted fibroid research and education. It had more than 80 co-sponsors, including Representative Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., but the bill did not advance.