Taking Charge of Your Care

How fibroids grow in your body. (Office on Women's Health)

How fibroids grow in your body. (Office on Women’s Health)

Every woman’s fibroids are unique. For that reason, it’s up to you to teach your physician as much as you can about your case. “When I see a patient, I want the whole puzzle. None of the pieces should be missing,” Bradley says. Here’s her advice:

  1. Track your symptoms. “It’s best to keep a journal of symptoms,” Bradley says. The details should include:

▪ How heavy are your periods?

▪ How many pads are you going through daily?

▪ If you have pain, how severe is it?

▪ When did you start bleeding and for how long?

  1. Keep your records. “Bring any biopsy, laboratory reports, physician recommendations and records of previous or current treatments or medications when you see a new physician,” Bradley advises.
  2. Ask about your fibroids. In order to participate in your care decisions, you should know what you’re dealing with. Ask your physician to tell you as much as possible about your fibroids after you’ve been examined.

Fibroid severity is determined, in part, by size, severity of bleeding, location and pain. “A normal uterus is about the size of a lemon,” Bradley explains. “Fibroids may be single or clustered and anywhere from the size of an orange, grapefruit or larger.” They come in three, primary types:

▪ Submucosal fibroids are located just under the uterine lining.

▪ Intramural fibroids lie between the muscles of the uterine wall.

▪ Subserosal fibroids extend from the uterine wall into the pelvic cavity.

  1. Interview your physician. Size and type matter, but surgeon skill may matter more. “I once operated on a 26-year-old woman with a fibroid the size of a watermelon,” Bradley says. “Four other doctors had told her to have a hysterectomy, but I did a myomectomy, and she can have a baby now.”

Many people are intimidated by doctors, but don’t allow that white coat to keep you from getting the answers you will need to decide if a physician is right for you. Be sure to ask:

▪ Are you board certified for this specific type of procedure, and is your board certification up to date? You can check your doctor’s credentials through your state board of medicine.

▪ How many times have you performed this procedure? Experts vary in how many times a surgeon should have performed a procedure, but they should have a high-volume practice, with a low rate of complications. And yes, you should ask about that, too.