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Fibroid treatments changing, could preserve fertility

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Posted at 6:40 AM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 10:04:50-04

After a certain age, a lot of adults get the question: 'When are you going to have kids?' For a growing number of men and women, the answer isn't as simple as snapping your fingers.

As part of Infertility Awareness Week, Melanie Parker of Phoenix is sharing her experience with fibroids in hopes of letting other women know there are treatment options that can preserve their fertility.

"You know internally when something is not right so just be hopeful against all odds," she said.

Most women have fibroids and don't know it. They can happen as early as your teens and range in size.

"They can be as small as a pea or as big as a grapefruit, cantaloupe, watermelon... you name the fruit," said Dr. Magdy Milad, the chief of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery at the Northwestern Medicine Center for Complex Gynecology.

He says some women have no symptoms, but others become aware after pain in the lower back, side, or pelvic floor, or intense bleeding.

African American women are two to three times more likely to have fibroids and a recurrence of them.

Dr. Milad says it's not clear why some women are more prone to fibroids but the ways they are being treated are changing and it could mean the difference when it comes to growing your family.

Dr. Milad says fibroids, a non-cancerous muscular tumor of the uterus, can act as birth control, blocking the path to conception. He says medication and procedures to shrink or remove them are all options.

"A hysterectomy should really be used as a last resort," said Dr. Milad.

Parker had battled fibroids during college. It was pain during a workout more recently that alerted her that fibroids had returned. Imaging showed it was the size of a grapefruit and was accompanied by cysts.

She says multiple doctors told her the only option was to remove an ovary.

"They're telling me, 'your case is too complicated to preserve your fertility.' I was just frozen."

Her research for another treatment plan led her out of state to Dr. Milad who was able to remove the fibroid with a same-day, laparoscopic procedure. He was also able to preserve tissue from her ovaries and suggested Parker freeze her eggs as a safety net.

Now, the 32-year-old is waiting to see what the future holds and in the meantime is trying to empower other women to take control of their own health.