Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.
Uterine fibroids are the most commonly seen tumors of the female reproductive tract. Fibroid tumors are made of smooth muscle cells and connective tissue and the overwhelming majority are not cancerous. (Remember, not all tumors are malignant.) They are also called uterine myomas, leiomyomas, or fibromas.
An estimated 25% of women of childbearing age have fibroids. However, many are unaware of their fibroids because fibroids vary dramatically in size, location, signs, and symptoms. Some are very small and cause no symptoms whatsoever. They may even be too small to be detected by a physician during a routine pelvic examination. Others are so large that they give the false impression of pregnancy. Large fibroids are more likely to cause pain and other symptoms like as compression of nearby structures, such as the urinary bladder. Some fibroids cause excessive menstrual bleeding and bleeding in between cycles, while others do not seem to alter the volume of monthly menstrual blood flow at all .
Why do women get fibroids?
The cause of fibroid tumors is not clear, though once they do appear their growth seems to be affected by estrogen. As a result association, fibroids often enlarge during pregnancy or while a woman is on (estrogen-containing) birth control pills.
Who is at risk for developing fibroids?
While any woman can develop fibroids, some groups are at particularly high risk. These include the following groups:
Ladies nearing menopause
Common signs and symptoms of fibroids
Heavier than normal menstrual cycles
Bleeding between menstrual cycles
Unusually long cycles
Pain during intercourse
Low back pain
Frequent urination (if fibroids push on bladder)
How are fibroids diagnosed?
The most common ways fibroids are diagnosed are during a routine examination by a clinician or by an ultrasound. Other more elaborate diagnostic tests may reveal fibroid tumors, but they usually are unnecessary if the doctor is simply looking for fibroids.
-Treatment for fibroids is often unnecessary, especially when they cause no symptoms. However, may women experience significant bleeding from fibroids. Some even have to have periodic blood transfusions to replace the red blood cells they lose as a result of fibroids.
-For some women, particularly those who do not desire to have any more children, hysterectomy may be a viable option. For others, a myomectomy (removal of the fibroid growths while leaving the uterus intact), is a more suitable option. This will allow for future pregnancy.
-Hormonal manipulation (medications)
-Pain killers (such as ibuprofen)