Learning About Uterine Fibroids
- Holly Marie Combs, known for her role as Piper Halliwell in the WB series Charmed, recently opened up in a podcast about a cancer scare she had while she was filming the fantasy drama TV series.
- Combs said the show stopped filming for two weeks when she had to have the tumor surgically removed. And for anyone who noticed her character to be sitting most times during the scenes she returned in, Combs said it was due to her having trouble walking as she recovered from surgery. Luckily, the tumor was not cancerous.
- “Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumors that are extremely common, with up to 80% of women having a fibroid in their lifetime,” Dr. Kelly N. Wright previously told SurvivorNet. “Many fibroids are small and cause no symptoms, and therefore can be monitored over time.”
- It’s important to note that while fibroids themselves aren’t cancerous, there is a rare type of cancer that can mimic the look of these tumors.
Speaking about episode twenty of season one, titled The Power of Two, which aired in May 1999, Combs recently revealed why she was missing from that hour of the show.Read More
“We got very close, all of us, during this time because there was a very real possibility that it was cancer and that I would not be able to have children,” Combs explained.
However, despite the “large tumor” being removed, a smaller tumor was left in her uterus, and now, 25 years later, Combs needs to have two other tumors removed, including the one that has grown in size.
Opening up as to why she doesn’t often talk about her cancer scare, Combs revealed, “I don’t advertise it a lot. I’m very protective of the show and my part in it, but I’m also very protective of the moments that we had like this. No one has any idea how much both Shannen [Shannen Doherty, 51, who played Prue Halliwell] and Alyssa did for me during this time.”
She said, “That’s the s**t that really bugs me. No one has any idea how much we went through behind the scenes, and how much we did together, and how close we were. Alyssa was in my hospital bed with me. I was like, ‘You’re on my catheter, kid, you’ve got to get off.””
“Shannen would leave my hospital room, and Alyssa and her mom would come in,” Combs commented further on the support she received during the frightening time in her life. “When I went home, Alyssa’s mom had made me chicken soup and food for the week because it was a really major surgery. The girls really pulled together during this time for me.”
Now the support roles have switched as Doherty, 51, was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer last year and has had her close friends by her side ever since.
Back in 2020, Combs was shamed for not publicly displaying support for Doherty, and took to Twitter to explain herself, writing, “Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t use social media to send messages to people I’ve known for 30 years. You can. But I don’t.”
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Combs didn’t go into detail about the type of tumor she had in her uterus, however, uterine fibroids are very common and not many people actually know about them. So, to help clarify, SurvivorNet spoke with Dr. Kelly N. Wright a specialist in the Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Center at Cedars-Sinai.
“Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumors that are extremely common, with up to 80% of women having a fibroid in their lifetime,” Dr. Wright previously told SurvivorNet. “Many fibroids are small and cause no symptoms, and therefore can be monitored over time.
“We expect fibroids to shrink by about 30% at the time of menopause, and after menopause, they shouldn’t grow any further or cause new symptoms.”
RELATED: British Singer FKA Twigs Had Uterine Fibroids Surgically Removed; What Are Fibroids & Are They Connected to Cancer?
Sometimes, however, they do causes symptoms that can interfere with a woman’s quality of life.
“When fibroids do cause symptoms, it can be either with a women’s period (heavier or irregular bleeding or both), or by causing ‘bulk’ symptoms, which are symptoms caused by the compression of the fibroid onto other organs,” Dr. Wright explained. “Bulk symptoms can include a protrusion in the belly, urinating frequently, or sometimes pelvic pain.
“If a fibroid is causing these symptoms, then it should be evaluated by a physician, and a treatment plan should be created. Fibroids that interfere with one’s quality of life should not be ignored.”
It’s important to note that while fibroids themselves aren’t cancerous, there is a rare type of cancer that can mimic the look of these tumors.
“Though fibroids are extremely common, some women are at risk for having a much less common type of cancer that can look like fibroids called leiomyosarcoma,” Dr. Wright said. “Women who have new fibroid tumors grow after menopause, take tamoxifen (a medication for breast cancer), or have a history of kidney cancer may be at a higher risk for leiomyosarcoma.
“Any concern for cancer in a fibroid should be fully evaluated and may require a hysterectomy for treatment.”
Additionally, uterine fibroids do not increase the risk for uterine cancer, and they do not have a known cause.
The Benefit of Support Networks for Cancer Patients
Support Through Cancer
We know that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, or learns about a large tumor inside their body like Combs had, the disease doesn’t only affect them, but can have a major effect on their loved ones as well — because during tough times, we all need a support system.
Tracy White is a two-time cervical cancer survivor — and during her interview with SurvivorNet, she took the time to pay tribute to all of the people who helped her get through her diagnosis, treatment, and subsequent recurrence. And there were certainly a lot of names to names when it came to her support system. Like so many survivors, White said that having that support from loved ones made a world of difference and really helped her heal.
“I had so many friends that stepped up,” she explained. “Two people in particular. One is a nurse … she lives in Ohio, and she came out so many times. Another best friend who is locally here in New Jersey, she would also come and take care of me. She would entertain my son when we needed a rest.”
White said that aside from her awesome friends, she also had prayer groups that she was a part of all over the world, parents at her son’s school would help her out with meals, and would even watch him on days when she had to go to chemotherapy. “I couldn’t have done it without all of them,” White added.
A Cancer Survivor’s Ode To Friends and Family: “My Support System Helped Me Heal”
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff
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