Uterine Fibroids — also are referred to as fibromyomas, leiomyomas or myomas—are noncancerous masses of tissue that often grow on the uterus of a woman during her childbearing years. Although uterine fibroids develop in an estimated 75 percent of women, most affected women do not experience symptoms—and usually don’t require treatment. Fibroids, which range is size from almost indiscernible to the size of a baseball, are detected during pelvic or prenatal ultrasound examinations. Uterine fibroids are not associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer and very rarely develop into cancer. However, uterine fibroids can lead to infertility, miscarriage, and early labor. Surgical procedures and less invasive therapies are used to treat women who experience discomfort or other problems. Emergency treatment is applied following sudden pelvic pain or extreme menstrual bleeding.
An estimated 25 percent of women who have uterine fibroids experience symptoms, most notably:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Prolonged menstrual periods — seven days or more of menstrual bleeding
- Pelvic pressure or pain
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty emptying your bladder
- Backache or leg pains
- Heavy or painful periods or bleeding between periods
- Feeling “full” in the lower abdomen
- Frequent urination
- Pain during sex
- Lower back pain
- Infertility, multiple miscarriages or early labor
Fibroids sometimes create extreme pain when they outgrow their blood supply. The degenerating fibroids can cause fever and pain as they ooze toxins into the adjacent tissue.
Uterine fibroids have two forms. Submucosal fibroid grow into the cavity of the uterus, and are suspected of causing prolonged, heavy menstrual bleeding that can compromise pregnancies. The incidence of fibroids increases as women age. Fibroids tend to not inhibit women from getting pregnant naturally.
Subserosal fibroids grow toward the exterior of the uterus, sometimes pressing against the bladder to cause urinary issues. Posterior fibroids can cause constipation by pressing against the rectum, or backache by pressing against the spinal nerves.
- Persistent pelvic pain
- Heavy or painful periods
- Spotting or bleeding between periods
- Pain during intercourse
- Difficulty emptying the bladder or moving the bowels
- Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus, also ending a woman’s fertility.
- Myomectomy is the surgical removal—through robotic surgery, a surgical incision with a laparoscope, or a larger incision with a laparotomy—of the fibroids from the uterus.
- Endometrial Ablation is a minor surgical procedure that destroys the lining of the uterus to control heavy bleeding during menstruation. While it limits bleeding, it does not diminish pain.
- Uterine Artery Embolization is a non-intrusive, non-surgical, radiologic procedure in which small pellets are used to shrink a fibroid by blocking its blood supply. One drawback is that the fibroids sometimes grow back.
- Injected medication sometimes suppresses the release of hormones that stimulate the fibroids. While the drugs often shrink the masses by half, the fibroids often return when the temporary treatments are ended.