What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine FibroidsUterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors made up of muscle tissue. Fibroids are common in women of childbearing age, affecting up to one in every five women. Genetics and hormones both play a role in the formation and growth of fibroids, which may shrink after menopause.

About Uterine Fibroids

Fibroids range in size from microscopic to several pounds. It’s common for women with uterine fibroids to have more than one and the tumors may develop in various regions of the uterus. Rarely, uterine fibroids develop outside the uterus.

Uterine Fibroid Symptoms

Many women with uterine fibroids have no symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Pelvic pain
  • Constipation
  • Urinary urgency or frequency

Uterine Fibroid Diagnosis

Larger uterine fibroids are often discovered during routine pelvic examinations. Additional testing is needed to identify small tumors and their location. Two common tests include:

  • Ultrasound – an imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to form a picture of the uterus
  • Sonohysterography – a special ultrasound that provides pictures of the inside of the uterus and identifies fibroids not seen on a basic ultrasound

Uterine Fibroid Treatment Options

Some uterine fibroids can simply be monitored without treatment. When needed, treatment options include:

Medications – birth control pills, progestin-releasing IUDs and other hormones may control the heavy bleeding sometimes associated with fibroids. NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen may be taken for discomfort.

Surgery & other procedures

  • Non-surgical treatment – The arteries that provide blood supply to the uterus may be injected with medication or occluded with electric current or laser to stop the blood flow to the tumors.
  • Myomectomy – Usually performed in women who want to preserve childbearing capabilities, the fibroids are removed through abdominal or laparoscopic surgery.
  • Hysteroscopic myomectomy – Using a vaginal approach, instruments are passed through the cervix and into the uterus. This method can only be used to remove to fibroids growing inside the uterine cavity.
  • Hysterectomy – Surgical removal of the uterus may be performed in women who no longer wish to have children.

Without hysterectomy, there is always a chance uterine fibroids will return.