When someone hears the word tumor, it can seem scary, but many of these growths are considered benign. That is the case with uterine fibroids. Although uterine fibroids are classified as tumors, they are not cancerous and do not increase the risk of uterine cancer. A fibroid’s lack of malignancy, however, does not mean they are not painful.
Some women may have fibroids and never feel any discomfort, while for others the pain is significant. Fibroids range considerably in size, from pinpoints to growths so large they expand the uterus. Women may experience one or multiple fibroids at a time. If you have any issues or want an examination, you should contact a doctor as soon as possible.
Types of Fibroids
Fibroids are formed from muscle cells and similar tissue in the uterine wall. Fibroids fall into three different types, based on their location in the uterus. These three types consist of:
- Intramural fibroids – found within the uterine wall
- Submucosal fibroids – protrude into the uterine cavity
- Subserosal fibroids – grow toward the outside of the uterus
Although any woman may develop fibroids, some individuals are at a greater risk than others. Since there is a hereditary component, a woman whose mother or sister had fibroids is more likely to develop them herself. Women who began menstruating early have higher fibroid rates. Other risk factors include:
- Certain types of birth control
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Excess alcohol consumption
- High red meat diet
Fibroids appear primarily in women of childbearing age, and as many as half of all women may have fibroids at some point in their reproductive lives. The highest number of fibroids is detected in women just a few years away from menopause.
Fibroids may also result in miscarriages or infertility in some women. While women harboring small fibroids seldom notice any symptoms, those with larger or troublesome fibroids may experience:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Longer than normal periods
- Frequent or difficult urination
- Full feeling in abdomen
- Pain in the back and/or legs
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during sex
Although various conditions can cause these symptoms, it is crucial to visit the gynecologist as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Many fibroids are found by the gynecologist during the routine annual pelvic examination. A definite diagnosis is made via X-ray, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Women with small fibroids may not require treatment, but if the growths cause pain or affect quality of life, treatment is necessary. Some medications – and hormonal forms of birth control – may relieve symptoms, although they do not address the actual fibroids.
Treatment for Fibroids
For women who no longer desire to have children, endometrial ablation can eliminate the endometrial lining of the uterus. For women who still want children, uterine artery embolization stops the blood flow to the fibroids.
Minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery can remove fibroids, with minimal downtime and lower risks of complications for the patient. For some women with very large fibroids, a hysterectomy may be the best option. This procedure is often performed laparoscopically.
Contact a Doctor
The best option depends on the woman’s individual symptoms and needs. An experienced doctor will explain the pros and cons of each method and help guide to your right choice.
If you experience fibroid symptoms or have any gynecological needs, contact a skilled gynecologist today to make an appointment for an examination.