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Study of the Environment, Lifestyle & Fibroids

What Can You Do For SELF?

About SELF

SELF Brochure

What Are Fibroids?

Purpose of SELF

SELF Research Team

 


 

SELF Brochure

Download a printable version of the SELF brochure.

SELF Brochure
(Requires Adobe Acrobat - Download Here)

 

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What are Fibroids?

Fibroids are tumors that grow in the uterus (womb). Another medical term for fibroids is "leiomyoma" (leye-oh-meye-OH-muh) or just "myoma". Fibroids are almost always non cancerous. Women can have a single fibroid or there can be many of them in the uterus. Fibroids can be as small as an apple seed or as big as a grapefruit. In unusual cases they can become very large.

Medical illustration of fibroids within the uterus

Fibroids become more common as women age, especially during the 30s and 40s through menopause. After menopause, fibroids usually shrink. Not all women with fibroids have symptoms. However, women who do have symptoms often find fibroids hard to live with. Some have pain and heavy menstrual bleeding. Fibroids also can put pressure on the bladder that causes frequent urination, or pressure on the rectum that could cause constipation. Should the fibroids get very large, they can cause the abdomen (stomach area) to enlarge, making a woman look pregnant. Fibroids can also cause women to have pain during sex, reproductive problems, and complications during pregnancy and labor, including a greater risk of miscarriage and cesarean section.

No one knows for sure what causes fibroids to develop and we also don't know what causes them to grow or shrink. African Americans are more likely to have fibroids than whites, but the reasons for this are not known.

To date, research findings indicate that:

  • Having a family member with fibroids may increase your risk
  • Being overweight may be at higher risk for fibroids.
  • Alcohol has been linked to increased risk
  • Exercise may decrease risk
  • Vitamin D, the vitamin from sunshine, may decrease risk

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Purpose of SELF

More women in the US have a hysterectomy because of complications with fibroids than for any other reason. The direct hospital costs exceed $2 billion per year, not including indirect costs for managing the symptoms of bleeding, pain, urinary incontinence, and reproductive dysfunction. Despite the public health impact of this condition, research on uterine fibroids in the United States has been very limited.

A recent study showed that over 80% of African American women are likely to develop fibroids during their lifetime. Twenty percent have a hysterectomy because of fibroids, three times the proportion in white women. We hope to find the reasons for these striking differences.

SELF is the first and only research study of uterine fibroids to use ultrasound screening of women who do not have fibroids so that we can finally learn:

  • Who gets fibroids
  • What women can do to help prevent them
  • When fibroids begin to first develop
  • Why women get them in the first place and
  • How they grow

Following early fibroid growth is very important because this phase of growth has never been described. It may be different from growth of fibroids after they have become established in the uterus. There are some women whose fibroid(s) never grow to large size, and identifying characteristics associated with lack of growth could identify factors that might be used for prevention.

 

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SELF Research Team

 

Donna D. Baird, Phd.

SELF Principal Investigator - NIEHS web site

Photo of Dr. Donna Baird     

 

Henry Ford Health System

SELF Ultrasound Technicians

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Henry Ford Health System

SELF Study Staff

Photo of Henry Ford Study Staff

 

Social & Scientific Systems, Inc.

SELF Study Staff

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