Monday, March 25, 2024


By: Milcah Joy Macatiag / empowerment speaker for Endo patients

I’m a Critical Care Nurse With 3 decades of experience in healthcare. My professional journey has led me through pivotal roles at Sutter Health and currently at Kaiser Permanente, where I specialize in Special Procedures with a focus on Gastroenterology and Interventional Radiology. My transition to this specialized area came after undergoing surgery for endometriosis in 2019, an experience that has deeply influenced my career and personal path. Beyond my professional life, I'm also actively involved in my community. I hold a position as a School Board Member, and serve as Development Committee’s, Events Planner for fundraising initiatives. My Passion for service and entrepreneurial spirit led me to start a Non-Emergency Transport Business during Covid-19 Pandemic era.

My journey through womanhood was marked by unexpected challenges from a young age. The onset of my first period brought debilitating pain, overwhelming cramps, and symptoms that I was wholly unprepared for. This ordeal left me feeling isolated and misunderstood, with questions about what it meant to be a woman and a longing for escape from the physical and emotional toll it took. The pain, misunderstood by many around me, became a solitary battle, with only the comfort of a hot water bottle as a source of relief.
>Photo Insert (R) w/ Milcah: 1) Dr. Robert L. Bard & Dr. Dan Martin 2) Dr. Tamer Seckin 3) Dr. Roberta Kline

For fifteen years, I endured this pain, affecting every aspect of my life. It led me to seek surgical intervention, despite the hesitation of my consulting OB-GYN. The aftermath of the surgery left me with more questions and trauma than answers, the diagnosis of Endometriosis with suggested solution, of hysterectomy, was devastating news at the age of 26.The journey for relief led me to experiment with birth control pills, which only compounded my suffering. The lack of information and understanding about endometriosis at the time left me feeling even more isolated in my struggle. Because of lack of treatments, I learned to anticipate the pain, relying on over-the-counter medications that provided minimal relief.
In 2018, my health took a significant turn for the worse. Alongside the chronic pain, I began experiencing fatigue and severe breathing difficulties. CT scan revealed that 80% of my right lung had collapsed, necessitating emergency medical intervention. Although VATs surgery was suggested, I sought alternative opinions, leading me to endometriosis specialists Dr. Seckin and Dr. Andrew Cook, whose interventions finally offered me relief and hope.
Last year, I participated in the Endofound Patient’s Conference, initially seeking information on thoracic endometriosis. However, I found myself drawn to the ENPOWR initiative by ENDOFOUND. Reflecting on my own experiences, I felt a profound connection to young girls facing similar challenges. Inspired, I returned to California, determined to initiate awareness campaigns in schools, ensuring that middle school and high school get the knowledge and awareness that I once lacked. I became the first person to launch ENPOWR new educational material; Story of Maya, an animated video. Today, my desire extends beyond my personal battle with endometriosis. I am driven to empower those affected by the condition through Endometriosis Coaching, focusing on Lifestyle Medicine as a means to manage its impacts. My journey from patient to advocate and coach reflects my commitment to transforming personal adversity into a catalyst for change and support for others navigating the complexities of endometriosis.

Uterine Fibroids: New Approaches to an Underdiagnosed Health Issue

Written and produced by: Dr. Roberta Kline for the Women's Health Digest / Balance & Longevity educational seminar series.

FIBROIDS are the most common tumor of the female pelvis and are the number one reason for hysterectomy. While prevalence estimates vary widely, in part due to systemic underdiagnosis, they range worldwide from 4-70%. Globally, Black women have the highest rate, often 3x that of White women. In addition, Black women are more likely to have more severe symptoms and undergo hysterectomy at an earlier age, adding the burden of lost fertility for these women.  The economic burden is also enormous. It is estimated that fibroids contribute to up to $34 billion in direct and indirect healthcare costs every year. [1] 

For many decades, the understanding of causes and effective treatments has progressed slowly. With the acceleration of technology enabling molecular and genetic expression research and advanced non-invasive treatment, that is starting to change.


Fibroids are classified based on where they occur in the uterus. 

Uterine fibroids, also known as uterine leiomyomas, are benign growths within the uterine wall that are made up of the same smooth muscle tissue as normal myometrium. But for reasons that are still not fully understood, they form into 3-dimensional spheres rather than the linear, elongated pattern of normal tissue. 

Up to half of all women with fibroids are symptomatic. Although fibroids are typically benign, they can cause significant health effects. The most common symptoms are painful periods and heavy menstrual bleeding. Pelvic pressure and pain during intercourse are not uncommon. Depending on their size and location, fibroids can press on nerves and cause pain; obstruct nearby organs including ureters, bladder, and intestines. Fibroids can also cause reproductive problems including infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, and other complications of pregnancy.

Fibroids occur after the onset of menses, and typically shrink after menopause, so clearly estrogen plays a role. Other standard risk factors for fibroids include ethnicity, age, family history, time since last birth, hypertension and diet. Vitamin D deficiency in particular, has been consistently linked with fibroids. [2] 

Genetics clearly plays a role. Having a family member with fibroids increases the risk – and if it’s your mother, you are 3x more likely to develop them too. A hereditary mutation in the FH gene (fumarate hydratase) that causes renal cell carcinoma (HRCC) is now being linked to the development of fibroids, especially at younger ages. [3]

Emerging research is revealing the role of underlying molecular pathways and the genes and epigenetics that regulate them in fibroid development and growth. These include estrogen metabolism, inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin and glucose regulation, nutrient processing, telomere length and DNA repair. [4] Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, there is significant overlap with other health conditions including endometriosis, as well as many chronic diseases of aging. 

One of the surprising findings of gene expression research is that almost half of all fibroids have chromosomal abnormalities. [5] Despite this, progression to the cancerous form (leiomyosarcoma) is rare – less than 1%. As researchers look deeper, it appears that it is not the genetic changes within the fibroid that have the most influence on the development of fibroids and the progression to cancer. Rather, it is the microenvironment, or the cellular health around the fibroid, that has this role. [6] 

Therefore, it may be that improving the microenvironment in which these fibroids develop could be effective early intervention strategies. Noninvasive therapies that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress including diet, medication, PEMF, and photobiomodulation may be new opportunities for early intervention for fibroids as well. [7] 

While genetic expression research on fibroids is shedding light on some of the genomic and genetic alterations that contribute to discrepancies between women of different ethnicities, it is clear that these aren’t the only drivers. [8] As with many other health conditions, where a woman lives and works plays an outsized role.

Environmental toxins including endocrine disruptors and air pollution, stress, and socioeconomic status all have been shown to be connected with higher rates of fibroids. These are likely related to bidirectional effects of epigenetic alterations, access to care and bias within the healthcare system, as well as other factors still to be identified. [9] 

Ultrasound, and preferably transvaginal ultrasound, is the best initial diagnostic imaging procedure for detection of fibroids. 3D ultrasound can provide even more information than the standard 2D. With the addition of hysterosonography, or introduction of fluid into the uterine cavity under ultrasound guidance, impingement on the uterine cavity can be clearly demonstrated.


Image source: Freytag, D., Günther, V., Maass, N., & Alkatout, I. (2021). Uterine Fibroids and Infertility. Diagnostics, 11(8). [OPEN ACCESS}

Despite many women already having symptoms by age 25, most aren’t diagnosed until their 30’s or 40’s. By that time, the fibroids are typically larger and more problematic. 

Current treatment options include medication to address symptoms – accounting for up to 70% of women at some point. Surgery to remove the fibroids (myomectomy) or the entire uterus along with the fibroids (hysterectomy) is the oldest and most invasive option. Newer techniques such as laparoscopy have improved these surgical approaches. Within the past couple of decades uterine artery embolization (UAE) has offered a less invasive option, and newer noninvasive approaches are now emerging that utilize radiofrequency ablation (RFA), and high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). [2] 

Here, too, treatment options are impacted by ethnicity and socioeconomic factors. "Despite minimally invasive options, Black women continue to dominate the percentages of women having hysterectomies for benign disease," Marsh says. "We need to understand why." [1]

One of the main limitations for these newer techniques is that they are more effective on smaller fibroids. Since fibroids tend to grow over time, it would seem a benefit to have earlier diagnosis so that women have better treatment options. In fact, a recent study in Ghana showed that routine ultrasounds at yearly clinic visits increased the rate of diagnosis, and at younger ages. [10] 

While more definitive research specific to fibroids is needed, we already have noninvasive tools and strategies to address some of the most common underlying contributors. Let’s advance the science with research as we simultaneously give women more options to proactively improve their health.


(1) Marsh, E. E., Al-Hendy, A., Kappus, D., et al. (2018). Burden, Prevalence, and Treatment of Uterine Fibroids: A Survey of U.S. Women. Journal of Women's Health, 27(11), 1359-1367.  (2) Freytag, D., Günther, V., Maass, N., & Alkatout, I. (2021). Uterine Fibroids and Infertility. Diagnostics, 11(8).  (3) Lu, E., Hatchell, K. E., Nielsen, S. M., et al. (2022). Fumarate hydratase variant prevalence and manifestations among individuals receiving germline testing. Cancer, 128(4), 675-684.  (4) Välimäki N, Kuisma H, Oskari AP et al. (2018) Genetic predisposition to uterine leiomyoma is determined by loci for genitourinary development and genome stability eLife 7:e37110.  (5) Kubínová K, Mára M, Horák P, et al. Genetic factors in etiology of uterine fibroids. Ceska Gynekol. 2012 Feb;77(1):58-60. Czech. PMID: 22536642.  (6) Bharambe, B. M., Deshpande, K. A., Surase, S. G., & Ajmera, A. P. (2014). Malignant Transformation of Leiomyoma of Uterus to Leiomyosarcoma with Metastasis to Ovary. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of India, 64(1), 68-69.  (7) Tinelli, A., Vinciguerra, M., Malvasi, A., et al. (2021). Uterine Fibroids and Diet. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(3), 1066. (8) Edwards, T. L., Giri, A., Hellwege, J. N., et al. (2019). A Trans-Ethnic Genome-Wide Association Study of Uterine Fibroids. Frontiers in Genetics, 10.  (9) Cheng, L., Li, H., Gong, Q., et al. (2022). Global, regional, and national burden of uterine fibroids in the last 30 years: Estimates from the 1990 to 2019 Global Burden of Disease Study. Frontiers in Medicine, 9, 1003605.  (10) Mesi Edzie, E. K., Dzefi-Tettey, K., Brakohiapa, E. K., et al. (2023). Age of first diagnosis and incidence rate of uterine fibroids in Ghana. A retrospective cohort study. PLOS ONE, 18(3), e0283201.


ROBERTA KLINE, MD (Educational Dir. /Women's Diagnostic Group) is a board-certified ObGyn physician, Integrative Personalized Medicine expert, consultant, author, and educator whose mission is to change how we approach health and deliver healthcare. She helped to create the Integrative & Functional Medicine program for a family practice residency, has consulted with Sodexo to implement the first personalized nutrition menu for healthcare facilities, and serves as Education Director for several organizations including the Women’s Diagnostic Health Network, Mommies on a Mission. Learn more at


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