80 percent of women have fibroids, and they are no joke

If you have a uterus, it’s time to read up on fibroids

Sara Bareilles showed her big-time bravery after her recent surgery to remove a large fibroid from her uterus. No, it wasn’t just the fact that she had the surgery — it’s a relatively uncomplicated outpatient procedure — but rather the fact that she’s talking about it (and sharing pictures)!

Uterine fibroids — little balls of tissue that grow in the walls of the uterus — are the most common benign tumors in women under 50, with over 80 percent of us getting them at some point in our lives. (Fun fact: I’ve got two!) But for something so common, it’s astonishing how little we hear about it.

Most people hear “benign” and just think “thank heavens it’s not cancer,” but fibroids run the gamut from being so mild you don’t even know you have them (that’s me) to incredibly debilitating, impacting a woman’s day-to-day functioning, according to Ayman Al-Hendy, M.D., OB-GYN and molecular biologist, who also happens to be working with the drug company Allergan to develop a noninvasive treatment for fibroids.

Symptoms include irregular or super-heavy periods, passing clots, pelvic pain or pressure, lower stomach bloat, infertility and even repeated miscarriages. Worse, many women believe their symptoms are “just part of being a girl,” leading them to wait years before seeking treatment for them. They’re usually diagnosed via an ultrasound and often found while looking for something else.

Because it’s unknown what causes fibroids, there aren’t many treatments for them. If you have no or mild symptoms, most doctors recommend a wait-and-see approach. But for the ones that reach epic levels, the most common treatment is surgery, making them the leading cause of hysterectomies in the U.S., according to Al-Hendy. Now, however, there are two very promising nonsurgical options. Both Allergan’sulipristal acetate treatment and uterine fibroid embolization have shown promising results in clinical trials.

Bareilles, for her part, has taken this as a sign to slow down and treat her body better, writing on Instagram:

“In the silence and solitude of the simple task of my body seeking it’s healed state, I have become vigilant about what I am intaking. Physically and metaphorically. Be careful about how much negativity and noise you heap on your plate. It comes in abundance, but there are other beautiful things at the buffet. The slow pace of my recovery has simplified my world in a way, and I am reminded to absolutely acknowledge the chaos of a very strange/surreal time in our country and on our beloved planet, but ALSO remember to come back into the room I’m actually sitting in. Celebrate what is good about that too. I will continue to mend and hopefully return with more patience and compassion and knowledge of Game of Thrones.”

Her deep thoughts and positive attitude (or painkiller euphoria?) are an inspiration to women everywhere.