Do you have heavy menstrual bleeding or painful menstrual periods? This quick Q&A will give you a brief overview of Uterine Fibroids and will answer some of the most common questions asked here in the office.
What are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine Fibroids, also known as “leiomyomas”, are benign growths of smooth muscle and connective tissue from the wall of the uterus. They may grow within the wall of the uterus, project into the interior cavity, or project towards the outer surface of the uterus.
- According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, 25-80% of women suffer from uterine fibroids.
- No two patients with uterine fibroids are alike: Uterine fibroids may have varying sizes, number, location, and symptoms.
Are Fibroids Cancerous?
New research suggests that it is more common than previously thought for a uterine fibroid to undergo malignant or cancerous changes. Patients with the rapid growth of uterine fibroids or fibroid growth during menopause require prompt evaluation.
Who is at Risk for Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine Fibroids are the most common tumor of the uterus in women of childbearing age. The highest prevalence is in women of color. Research suggests that obesity, a family history of uterine fibroids, early onset of menstruation, or late onset menopause may contribute to an increased risk of developing fibroids.
Factors that may lower the risk of developing fibroids are pregnancy and long-term use or oral or injectable contraceptive.
What Causes Uterine Fibroids?
The exact causes are unknown. Evidence suggests that multiple factors play a role in the growth of fibroids such as genetics, estrogen and progesterone, growth hormones, and stress. Fibroids may stabilize or shrink in women after menopause.
What are the Symptoms?
Most fibroids do not cause symptoms and do not require treatment other than regular observation by your healthcare provider. Common symptoms of fibroids are:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Painful menstrual periods
- Bleeding between periods
- Pelvic pressure (a feeling of “fullness” in lower abdomen)
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Low back pain
- Difficulty becoming pregnant or difficulty maintaining a pregnancy
- Frequent urination, constipation, or difficult bowel movements may also occur
What Tests are Completed to Diagnose Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine Fibroids may be discovered during a routine gynecologic examination or during prenatal care. Oftentimes an ultrasound is ordered to verify the size and number of fibroids.
How are Uterine Fibroids treated?
For Uterine Fibroids that are not causing symptoms, the best therapy may be watchful waiting. Your healthcare provider may schedule routine gynecologic exams and periodic ultrasounds to check for growth of fibroids.
Currently, the only cure uterine fibroids is a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus).
- Hysterectomy: Surgical removal of the uterus. The only definitive diagnosis, however, does not preserve fertility.
- Myomectomy: Surgical removal of fibroids while leaving the uterus in place. This preserves fertility; however, although the fibroids do not regrow after the surgery, new fibroids may develop.
- Uterine Artery Embolization: Performed by an interventional radiologist. Tiny particles about the size of grains of sand are injected into the blood vessels that lead to the uterus. Particles then cut off the blood flow to the fibroid causing it to shrink.
- Medication Therapy: Your healthcare provider may recommend oral contraceptives or other hormonal birth control methods in order to reduce heavy bleeding and painful periods. Medication therapy is symptomatic care and does not remove or reduce the size of uterine fibroids.
Your healthcare provider will consider several factors such as age, general health, the severity of symptoms, location/size of fibroids, and whether you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant to determine your individualized treatment approach.
Contact us to schedule a visit.