It was 2002 when I found out I had a type of benign tumour growing within the muscle tissue of my uterus. I’m talking about myomas — or fibroids, as doctors in Canada prefer (maybe because the tumour is made of fibrous tissue).
Even being told that my tumours weren’t cancerous, it was uncomfortable to hear about them. My then-doctor scheduled a myomectomy (surgery to remove myomas) for the following month, which gave me the impression that it was too serious.
That didn’t seem right, so I sought another doctor. I was lucky to find a gynecologist who’s also a homeopath. A surgery could be necessary, he said, but not in that moment.
Some women don’t even know they have fibroids because they never had any symptoms. In my case, I had cramps that left me in bed for hours. That’s why I ended up going to the doctor (and had an ultrasound confirming the diagnosis).
As my new doctor was a homeopath, he was taking care of my symptoms, but mainly of me as a whole. Homeopathy and natural medicines such as green clay made my symptoms less severe.
Besides cramps, other common problem associated with fibroids is excessive bleeding during menstrual periods, which can cause anemia. I’m not anemic, but I often take iron supplements.
Supplementation was recommended by my general practitioner. When I went vegan, she was concerned that I wouldn’t get enough iron. It’s that false idea that we get iron only from meat and other animal products.
I included regular intakes of iron in my diet more as a precaution than a necessity, and also because I really trust my GP. I eat a lot of beans, spinach and seeds with high levels of iron, so my blood tests have been great.
What worries me is that fibroids aren’t monitored where I live (not sure if it’s a commonality of British Columbia or the whole Canada). My GP did request an ultrasound, but the gynecologist told me I don’t need regular checks.
I lived in Brazil before, and monitoring fibroids once or twice a year is a preventive measure down there. For example, I had to undergo a myomectomy two years after the diagnosis because my six-centimetre myoma was falling apart.
I wouldn’t know that was happening if my gynecologist wasn’t monitoring it every six months. Where would this tumour go after falling apart? Should it stay there floating inside my body? To play it safe, my doctor removed it and sent it to biopsy.
Myomectomies may not be a permanent solution: it’s common for women who have fibroids removed to have new ones. But remember that they don’t have to be removed every time and for any reason.
My quality of life has improved. I still had cramps, but not to the point I couldn’t perform regular activities. And they were definitely gone after I started consuming flaxseed daily, as part of my plant-based diet.
Here, where myomas are not monitored, women with excessive bleeding are recommended to undergo hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus). It’s said that fibroids respond for one-third of the 60,000 hysterectomies performed here every year.
Seriously? There are other alternatives to treat fibroids. Why not monitor the tumours to avoid such invasive procedure? Removing the uterus of women who don’t want kids could be harmless. But taking someone’s right to be a mother only because “we don’t monitor” is insane.
When I read articles about this topic, a lot of them mention that hysterectomy is the most effective treatment for myomas. But few address these consequences to women. Shouldn’t we all have a discussion about that?
Photo credit: © Paco Lopez under Creative Commons via Flickr