What You Need to Know About Fibroids
Uterine fibroids, also called myomas or leiomyomas, are the most common type of pelvic tumor found in women. Even though they are often referred to as a ‘tumor,’ fibroids are not cancerous and are benign in the vast majority of women.
Fibroids arise within the cells of the muscle of the uterus and can grow to impressively large sizes.
They can be located inside the lining of the uterus, within the uterine muscle, or on the outside of the uterus. Rarely are fibroids found in the ovary or other organs.
About one-quarter to two-thirds of all women in the world have fibroids.
Fibroids can be asymptomatic and may not cause any problems or symptoms. In that case, no treatment is recommended.
However, many women of reproductive age experience symptoms such as heavy or prolonged menstrual (period) bleeding and pelvic pressure or pain.
The bleeding caused by fibroids can be so severe that it can lead to a low blood count, also called anemia.
Fibroids can also cause problems during pregnancy and can lead to miscarriage or problems conceiving.
The bladder or rectum can also be affected if there is pressure caused by larger fibroids.
Often fibroids shrink when women go into menopause.
There are several options to treat fibroids. One approach is treatment with medications. There are several hormonal pills, patches, vaginal rings, injections, and implants used for birth control that can reduce how much bleeding is experienced during a menstrual cycle. A device known as the intrauterine device, or IUD, can also be of benefit in reducing menstrual bleeding. There are also other medicines that can be taken during the menstrual cycle to reduce the amount a woman bleeds.
Another treatment option is surgery to remove the fibroids. The medical term for this type of surgery is "myomectomy." During this operation, the fibroids are removed, but the uterus is left in place.
This surgery is effective, but it is not always a permanent fix, and there is a risk that fibroids can come back in the future. Myomectomy is often a good choice for women who might want children or for women who are not willing to lose their uterus.
Another treatment option is to cut off the blood supply to the fibroids. This procedure is called "uterine artery embolization" or "uterine fibroid embolization.”
During this procedure, a thin tube is placed into an artery in the groin and threaded up to the uterine vessels. Small particles are release to cut off the blood supply to the fibroid, which leads it to shrink.
The only way to truly get rid of fibroids and prevent them from returning is to have a hysterectomy, which is the surgery to remove the uterus. Patients should be certain they do not wish to become pregnant in the future before they plan to have the uterus removed.
If you believe that you may be suffering from fibroids, you should speak to your doctor. Most fibroids can be detected during a pelvic exam. Often, an ultrasound is performed to count the fibroids, measure their size, and determine their location.