Fibroids Q & A
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths within the walls of your uterus. They are incredibly common, and affect most women at some point in their lives. For many, uterine fibroids bring no noticeable symptoms, and you might not even be aware you have fibroids.
In decades past, physicians had limited understanding of uterine fibroids, and a primary treatment path was a full hysterectomy. Today, women’s health specialists know that fibroids don’t increase your risk of gynecologic cancer, and far more conservative treatments are the norm.
What are some symptoms of uterine fibroids?
Many women with fibroids don’t experience symptoms, and don’t learn they have fibroids until they’re detected during a pelvic or fertility exam. When symptoms are present, they might include:
- Heavy or lengthy menstrual bleeding
- Pelvic pressure or pain
- Frequent need to urinate or difficulty emptying bladder
- Pain in your back or legs
You can have one or many fibroids. They can range in size from so tiny they can’t be detected by the human eye to so large they extend your abdomen.
What is my risk level for uterine fibroids?
Researchers believe there’s a genetic component to uterine fibroids, so if a close family member has them, you might have an elevated risk. African-American women also have higher rates of fibroids, and usually, develop them at an earlier age than other ethnicities.
You may also have a higher risk for fibroids if you are obese, are deficient in Vitamin D, began using hormonal birth control at an early age, consume alcohol, or have a diet high in red meat and low in vegetables and fruits.
How are fibroids treated?
In some cases, there’s no need for treatment, and your specialist may advise a period of watchful waiting to see if the fibroids increase in size or cause symptoms. Fibroids usually grow very slowly and often shrink during menopause.
If treatment is needed, medications help slow or block estrogen and progesterone production, which can shrink fibroids. A Gn-RH agonist can also shrink fibroids and is sometimes used to prepare for surgical removal. Other medications improve abnormal bleeding and reduce pain.
There are several minimally invasive treatments that shrink fibroids by cutting off their blood supply. Some are performed using laparoscopic tools or robotic assistance. Freezing or heating blood vessels that supply fibroids can also shrink them.
Surgical removal is an option when more conservative approaches don’t improve symptoms. Hysterectomy remains an option, although it is far less common than in years past.
To learn more about diagnostic and treatment options for uterine fibroids, book an appointment online or by phone.