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Uterine fibroid cases are higher among Arab women, say experts

Women who regularly consume red meat face three times higher risk of having fibroid than vegetarians; while eating fish would help to reduce chance of having this condition.

Prevalence of uterine fibroid is higher among women in the regional Arab population as race plays a major role in the cases of this non-malignant tumour of the uterus, according to an expert.

Fibroids are caused as a result of hormonal oestrogen stimulation in the smooth muscle cells of the uterus.

In addition to its occurrence in women during their childbearing years, this condition is extremely common in some ethnic groups like Africans than in Caucasians, says Dr Rajesh Devassy, Consultant Gynecological Laparoscopic Surgeon at the Dubai London Clinic & Specialty Hospital in Jumeirah, Dubai. Dr. Devassy is also The International Course Director at University Hospital for Gynecology in Oldenburg, Germany.

“Women, who regularly eat red meat, face three times higher risk of suffering from fibroid than those who are vegetarians; while lovers of fish have comparatively less chance of fibroid growth. In the last few years, the number of cases of uterine fibroid has seen a steep rise with many women seeking specialized treatment at hospitals in Dubai,” revealed Dr. Devassy.

On an average, in a span of 10 days, Dr. Devassy operates a minimum of 18 to 20 cases of fibroid through minimally-invasive laparoscopic procedures.

“Fibroid causes recurrent miscarriage, infertility, premature delivery or related complications. There are several ways that uterine fibroids can reduce fertility. This is because changes in the shape of cervix affect the number of sperms entering the uterus; and changes in uterus’ shape interfere with the movement of the sperm or embryo. Fibroid also blocks Fallopian tubes, and impacts the size of lining in uterine cavity, where it affects blood flow as well decreases the ability of an embryo to implant to the uterine wall or to develop,” he elaborated.

Dr. Sreelatha Gopalakrishnan, Gynecologist at DLCSH, who conducted this study, said, “We found that women with uterine fibroids wait more than three years on average before seeking treatment, even though symptoms often interfere with their everyday lives. A few years ago a study was conducted in three hospitals in Japan, and more recently at the Dubai London Speciality Hospital, where the new study performed a pelvic radiological exam before and then 3, 6, 12, 24 and 52 weeks after Laparoscopic myomectomies to determine the uterine scar after surgery.”

“What found was that all women had healing of the uterine lining area and return to a normal uterine size at around 6 to 12 weeks. Also, 86 per cent of patients had normal blood flow to the uterine muscle by 12 weeks. Based on this study, women can start trying to get pregnant three months after Laparoscopic myomectomy. Even for a rare patient, who gets healed a bit more slowly, the healing should be complete by the time the uterus starts to grow with the pregnancy,” she added.

According to Dr. Devassy, fibroids can be successfully removed through minimally-invasive laparoscopic procedures. “Many women fear losing the uterus during removal of fibroids, which could be emotionally devastating to them, so they defer treatment. I am impressed by how strongly women feel about uterine preservation. For many women, even if they don’t want fertility, preservation of their uterus is important to them. This is where minimal invasive surgery is a blessing to many women suffering from this condition.”

“In most women, fibroids do not show any symptoms, so the condition remains unnoticed. The usual symptoms include heavy painful periods, pain in the legs, painful sexual contact, swelling and discomfort in lower abdomen, anemia, backache, constipation and frequent urination. Other possible symptoms of uterine fibroids are fertility problems, repeated miscarriages and delivery problems,” he added.

Genetic abnormalities, alterations in growth factor (proteins formed in the body that direct the rate and extent of cell proliferation) expression, abnormalities in the vascular (blood vessel) system, and tissue response to injury have all been suggested to play a role in the development of fibroids. Family history is also a key factor. Estrogen tends to stimulate the growth of fibroids in many cases.

Uterine fibroid affects 35 percent of women in the 18 to 50 age group, which frequently seek doctors’ help for the symptoms. With regards to prevention of fibroid growth, there is no known treatment. But getting regular physical exercise helps preventing it. A recent study has revealed that the more exercise women do, the less likely they are to get uterine fibroids.