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This Was the First Sign Sharon Stone Had a Tumor and How You Can Spot One

Learn what to know about fibroid tumors and signs that indicate you could have one from experts. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Sharon Stone is making headlines for a health scare she's facing and shared shocking personal details about the situation. The Oscar-nominated actress urged her 3.4 million Instagram followers to always "get a second opinion" from medical experts after she revealed she was wrongly diagnosed. The 64-year-old took to social media to explain that she "just had another misdiagnosis and incorrect procedure." She stated she had to have a "double epidural" for the pain, and saw another healthcare professional who identified she has a "large fibroid tumor that must come out."

In her Instagram story, Stone emphasized to women the importance of being your own advocate when it comes to health. "Ladies in particular: Don't get blown off. GET A SECOND OPINION. It can save your life." She ended her post on an optimistic note saying, "I'll be down for 4-6 weeks for full recovery. Thx for your care. It's all good."

This is not the first time the Basic Instinct has endured a terrifying health issue. In her memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice, Stone shared she had breast reconstruction surgery to repair her chest after doctors had to remove benign tumors that were "gigantic, bigger than my breast alone," in 2001. She revealed the plastic surgeon gave her bigger breasts than what she consented to because they'd "go better" with her figure. She wrote, "When I was unbandaged, I discovered that I had a full cup-size bigger breasts, ones that he said 'go better with your hip size.' He had changed my body without my knowledge or consent." 

Also in her memoir, Stone writes about the life-threatening stroke and cerebral hemorrhage she experienced at age 43. She spoke with Willie Geist on Sunday Today, and recalled how close she was to death. "The room was so silent," she said. "When the room is so silent and no one's running around trying to fix you, that's when you realize how near death is and how serious everything is."

Fibroid tumors can cause complications if left untreated and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who have not treated Sharon Stone, but explain what to know about fibroid tumors and signs that indicate you have one. As always, please speak with your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is a Fibroid Tumor?

Doctor or teacher points of ballpoint pen on ovaries on anatomical model of internal female sex organs

Lisbeth Chang, MD, FACOG Dignity Health Medical Group – Northridge OBGYN says, "Uterine fibroids are benign growths that most commonly develop from the muscle of the uterus. Fibroids are the most common type of growth or tumor found in the female pelvic organs.  Another name for fibroids are leiomyoma or myomas. They are not cancerous."

Edwin Ramirez, MD, FACOG Dignity Health St. John's Regional Medical Center tells us, "The uterus is a functional reproductive organ that is made up of different types of connective tissue.  On occasion, these functional tissues rapidly multiply, leading to benign tumors within the uterus known as uterine fibroids. For the most part these gynecologic tumors are benign; however , on rare occasions, they can become malignant or cancerous."


What to Know About Fibroid Tumors

doctor patient closeup fatty liver disease

Dr. Ramirez shares, "About 1 in 5 women of reproductive age have uterine fibroids and by age 50, 80 % of women will have uterine fibroids in their lifetime.  Most of these tumors are common within the African American race however they can affect any patient despite ethnicity or race.  Some of the more common symptoms are abnormal uterine bleeding, pelvic pain, and bladder or rectal pressure.  Unfortunately, some of these symptoms can mimic other non-gynecologic disorders such as urinary incontinence, bowel disorders, and musculoskeletal disorders, leading to a delay in diagnosis."

Dr. Chang explains, "Fibroids are most commonly seen in women in their 30s and 40s, and are very common.  Fibroids occur more often in black women than in white women, and there may be genetic factors involved as fibroids also tend to run in families. It is not clear what causes fibroids, but the female hormones estrogen and progesterone may affect how they grow.  As the levels of hormones change to a woman's lifetime, we can sometimes see changes in fibroids.  For example, fibroids often shrink after a woman enters menopause as her levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease. Some fibroids can be watched if they are not causing problems. There are many treatment options for women with fibroids.  Sometimes medications can be used to reduce heavy bleeding or painful periods that fibroids can cause.  Sometimes surgery may be needed to remove fibroids.  The type of surgery often depends on whether a woman is desiring to have more children after surgery.  There are other treatment approaches such as uterine artery embolization and radiofrequency ablation which may help to shrink the size of fibroids as well.  If the woman has fibroids, she should discuss treatment options with her healthcare provider."

Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, women's health expert and CEO Dr. Nesochi LLC internal medicine practice adds, "It is a quite common condition in which benign tumors grow on the uterine wall. As a primary care physician, I take care of many patients who have leiomyoma. It is key to recognize that fibroids can be treated and there are a range of options that exist to address the problem."


Fibroid Tumors are Typically Not Deadly

patient speaking with doctor

Dr. Ramirez says, "Most fibroid tumors are not deadly; however they can have a huge impact on a person's quality of life.  They can also result in infertility issues and severe anemia.  Most uterine fibroids are fueled by estrogen, and this is why it is more commonly seen in reproductive age women.  Fibroids can be treated either medically or surgically, through either an open abdominal incision or minimally invasive surgery." 

According to Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe, "They are  typically benign and not considered life threatening, and can be treated with a range of options depending on the severity of the condition. Treatment modalities may include over the counter anti-inflammatory medications to address pain, hormonal medication therapy, or even surgical intervention such as uterine fibroid embolization, myomectomy, or hysterectomy."


Where Fibroid Tumors are Commonly Located

xray uterus

Nita Landry, MD, FACOG, a Board-Certified OB/GYN and author of Dr. Nita's Crash Course for Women: Better Sex, Better Health, Better You tells us, "This is important: fibroids can be submucosal – protruding into the uterine cavity, growing where a baby typically grows during pregnancy, intramural – in the uterine wall, subserosal — on the outer surface of the uterus. The location of your fibroids may cause different symptoms. Fibroids that are totally or mostly submucosal (in the uterine cavity) frequently cause heavy and/or irregular periods.  Large intramural fibroids (in the uterine wall) may lead to heavy/irregular periods as well as pelvic pain. Subserosalfibroids (on the outer surface of the uterus) typically don't cause heavy irregular bleeding, but they can cause severe pelvic pain if they put pressure on the surrounding organs. When a submucosal or subserosal fibroid is on a thinstalk, it is called a "pedunculated fibroid." If the stalk happens to become twisted, these fibroids can become painful. A woman may only have one fibroid,or she may have any combination of these types."

Dr. Chang says, "Fibroids are the most common growth or tumor found in female pelvic organs. They can vary in shape, size and location, and can be found inside, in the walls of the uterus on the outer surface, or sometimes attached to the uterus on a stalk.  Rarely, they can be found in the ovaries or in the connective tissue of the pelvis."

Dr. Ramirez states, "Most fibroids grow within the wall of the uterus however they can also grow in front of the uterus resulting in bladder pressure or behind the uterus causing rectal pressure and painful intercourse.  More importantly, most fibroids decrease in size after menopause as a result of declining levels of estrogen.  Continued growth of uterine fibroids after menopause should warrant immediate evaluation by a gynecologist that specializes in uterine fibroids."


Fibroid Tumors are Often Misdiagnosed

Team of healthcare professionals looking x-ray of the patient's lungs.

Dr. Ramirez reveals, "Unfortunately, a good number of patients are misdiagnosed since 60 % of these benign tumors are missed during a physical examination.  Uterine fibroids are normally diagnosed by either a pelvic ultrasound or MRI."

Dr. Chang says, "I can't really comment on what exactly Sharone Stone meant by being "misdiagnosed," but fibroids are typically diagnosed either with a pelvic examination or with other studies ordered by a doctor.  Sometimes a fibroid may be felt on a routine pelvic examination.  An ultrasound,  which uses sound waves to show pictures of the uterus and ovaries, is the most typical way a fibroid is identified.  Other imaging tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) may be used but are often not needed.  Sometimes these tests are used to watch the growth of fibroids over time."

According to Dr. Landry, "To check for fibroids, most practitioners will offer you a transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS). While transvaginal ultrasounds are frequently recommended, they missone out of six growths in the uterus in reproductive-aged women. That means that one out of six women will be told, "Everything looks great!" when everything is not great. If cost and availability are not an issue for you, I recommend that you ask if you're a good candidate for saline infusion sonography (SIS) instead. This procedure, which is frequently performed in gynecology clinics, is just like a regular transvaginal ultrasound, except that saline is used to gently expand the walls of your uterus and hold them apart. Compared to a transvaginal ultrasound, the SIS allows your doctor to better view the uterine cavity and detect small polyp or submucosal fibroids. Patients with multiple large fibroids may not be candidates for SIS, but those fibroids are pretty hard to miss using a regular transvaginal ultrasound."


There's Different Treatment Options

woman consulting with female doctor

Dr. Landry explains, "Some people without symptoms choose not to do anything. If you're in this camp, your practitioner might recommend a yearly evaluation to monitor the growth of the fibroid(s). If you are experiencing symptoms, surgery and medication are the primary treatment paths. You don't have to suffer. You have options.

If your bleeding is so heavy that you're severely anemic, your doctor might recommend surgery instead of medication, or you may need a blood transfusion or intravenous (IV) iron transfusion. Somewomen can have very large fibroids that cause the uterus to be up to ten timesits normal size. This causes what doctors call "bulk symptoms." For example, a woman may feel that her uterus is enlarged, as if she's pregnant, or she may have related symptoms like increased urination or constipation due to the bulk size. Those bulk symptoms are best addressed by surgery.

For many patients with fibroids, the goal is to decrease bleeding and for those patients, there are several medication options. It's important to remember medications can help symptoms, but they won't "cure" your fibroids. Birth control pills,patches, and vaginal rings with estrogen and progestin can decrease bleeding,regulate your cycle and ease pain. An IUD with progestin may decrease bleeding more than a birth control pill, but there is a risk of your IUD coming out if your fibroid is completely or partially submucosal (in the uterine cavity). 

Another medication option is tranexamic acid. This is one of my favorite treatment options. Tranexamic acid has no effect on fibroid size, but this non hormonal oral antifibrinolytic agent frequently works wonders for patients when it comes to decreasing bleeding. And instead of a daily pill, you take it for up to five days a month during your period. Finally, there's a new exciting option that every patient should know about – it's a GnRH antagonist. This oral medication reduces heavy bleeding and fibroid volume. It works by putting your body in what you can think of as "temporary menopause," which will decrease your estrogen levels. But menopausal sideeffects like hot flashes and bone loss can be alleviated by taking "add back"therapy, which isa very low dose of estrogen and progestin. 

Orianna, a GnRH antagonist with estrogen and progestin add back, is currently FDA-approved for up to twenty-four months of use to treat heavy menstrual bleeding associated with uterine fibroids. This medication is an excellent option for women who are close to menopause or individuals who need surgery but want to put it off for a while. The downside is that once you stop the medication, your symptoms will return and GNRH antagonists can be expensive without insurance coverage. Patients can also try non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which decrease heavy bleeding and pain, though less effectively than estrogen-and-progestin birth control, an IUD,or tranexamic acid.

I don't recommend the use of herbal supplements such as black cohosh or Chinese herbal medicine because there aren't large, well-designed studies to prove that these options are safe and effective when it comes to helping you with your fibroid symptoms."


Second Opinions are Essential

Portrait of a mature female doctor standing in a hospital.

Dr. Ramirez emphasizes, "I strongly encourage a patient to seek a second opinion before agreeing to any procedure or treatment plan.  There are different surgical options out there on how to manage uterine fibroids and minimally invasive surgery has emerged as a popular surgical alternative.  If Sharon Stone wouldn't have sought a second opinion, her uterine fibroids could have continued to grow, resulting in either uterine cancer or renal insufficiency."

Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe says, "I am a huge advocate of second opinions for any health concern. If something still feels off with your health after an evaluation with your doctor and symptoms continue to linger, it is always helpful to seek a second opinion." 

Dr. Chang states, "I don't have details of Sharon Stone's case, and shouldn't comment on specifics, and the below may not apply to her if she menopausal. While most fibroids do not cause problems, sometimes there can be complications with fibroids if they are very large or located into place that can cause issues with bleeding.  Fibroids that grow quickly may cause pain.  A very large fibroid can sometimes cause swelling or pressure from there being a mass in the abdomen.  Fibroids that are inside the lining of the uterus can sometimes cause extremely heavy bleeding or infertility."  


Signs of a Fibroid Tumor to be Aware of

young woman with stomach pain
Shutterstock / PR Image Factory

Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe says, "Some patients may not even exhibit symptoms. But when symptoms do manifest it may include extremely heavy menstrual cycles, abdominal discomfort, and even low back pain. Those experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding may experience problems with anemia."

Dr. Landry states, "If you have fibroids, you may notice heavy or irregular periods, fatigue due to anemia, abdominal discomfort or fullness, lower back pain, painful periods,painful sex, miscarriages, infertility, frequent urination or trouble emptying yourbladder, or bowel symptoms such as constipation. Not all women who have fibroids will experience pain or symptoms. Black women tend to have bigger fibroids, more severe symptoms, and a higher chance of getting fibroids at an early age. When reproductive hormone levels go down and periods stop after menopause,most patients, but not all, will have shrinkage of fibroids."

According to Dr. Chang, "Fibroids that do not cause symptoms, or are small often do not require treatment.  Warning signs of the fibroid might need treatment include:

* Heavy or painful periods that cause excessive bleeding or disrupt normal activity

* Bleeding between periods

* Uncertainty if a growth is truly a fibroid or another type of tumor that might initially appear like a fibroid on imaging

* Rapid growth in the size of the fibroid

* Infertility

* Pelvic pain"


Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Unhealthy young woman with stomachache leaning on the bed at home.

Dr. Landry says, "Ask your doctor, "Based on the number, size, and location of my fibroids, what are all my treatment options?" Most doctors don't perform or have access to every fibroid procedure/surgery under the sun. That doesn't make them bad doctors. But before you decide on a treatment plan, you should consider ALL of your options. Do not, I repeat, do not let someone convince you to get a hysterectomy for non cancerous fibroids if you want kids in the future.

Unless you are in an emergency situation (read: bleeding to death and you need a hysterectomy to save your life or you're dealing with a different, equally serious matter), no one should tell you that a hysterectomy is your only option for non cancerous fibroids. If you wish to carry a pregnancy in the future, you should have a myomectomy (fibroid removal surgery). Recurrence of fibroids after myomectomy increases over time and approaches 25% at 40 months. Therefore, you may need another surgery in the future."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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