Boise, Idaho: An Idaho woman who thought she was gaining weight because of menopause discovered she actually had a 50-pound tumour that had been growing inside her for decades. Brenda Cridland of Meridian chalked up her weight gain to aging, but when her health started to quickly decline about eight months ago she decided to see a doctor.
That’s when a CAT scan revealed she had an enormous tumor that had displaced her organs and was cutting off the blood supply to her brain.
Cridland underwent two-and-a-half hours of surgery to remove the mass, which luckily was benign and was caused by undiagnosed endometriosis.
After the surgery, Cridland was 65 pounds lighter.
‘My stomach was like a rock,’ Cridland said.
‘I would take one bite of something and it would make me feel nauseous and like it was stuck in my chest.’
But it all took a turn in February last year, when she could barely eat anything.
‘I was at my granddaughter’s birthday and everyone was looking at me, like, ‘that’s not just menopause.”
She decided to see a doctor just to be sure, so the doctor ordered a CAT scan.
Immediately, the scan revealed something was very wrong.
‘He showed me the tumor on the CAT scan and it was very scary because it was cutting off the blood supply to my brain,’ Cridland said.
‘He said probably another two weeks it would have been life or death.’
Cridland said the mass was pushing her intestines to one side, and her stomach up towards her chest.
Like many things in women’s health, endometriosis is incredibly difficult to diagnose since the symptoms masquerade as other, less threatening ones.
It’s a condition that causes the lining of the uterus to break off, attach and grow elsewhere in the body – often in the pelvis or the ovaries but sometimes even in the chest or elsewhere.
When a woman has her menstrual cycle and her uterus lining bleeds, those pieces of uterus lining bleed too.
Since the body is well-armed to patch up spontaneous bleeding, that leads to scarring and clumps in areas that it shouldn’t be.
It means women can develop cysts or even benign masses.
The symptoms are subtle, though. A bit of weight gain, painful periods, heavy bleeding – all things that may happen during a period or menopause.
And there is no simple way to diagnose it.
The only option is key-hole surgery. Literally: opening a woman up to physically see the lining in other places and remove it.
There are efforts to find new, less invasive ways. One start-up, NextGen Jane, believes we could detect signs of endometriosis in menstrual blood. The idea is that women could send ‘smart tampons’ to a lab in the post, which could be screened for all kinds of hard-to-detect conditions.
But that is still quite a bit off hitting the market.
Perhaps in a few decades, endometriosis will be more swiftly detectable.
For Cridland, it hadn’t even crossed her mind to check.
‘It’s becoming more common than I realize after I had it removed,’ Cridland told KTVB. ‘I started reading all these stories about it and it was caused from endometriosis.’
She said she ignored red flags about her health, and hopes her story will remind other women that they shouldn’t avoid seeing a doctor.
Now she feels completely different.
Even her husband was stunned by her dramatic weight loss after the surgery.
‘It was like, his jaw hit the floor,’ Cridland said.’ He’s like, “where did my wife go?”‘