Uterine fibroids are benign solid tumors that develop from the smooth muscle layer of the uterus. Fibroids are the most common benign tumors in reproductive age women. Although not clearly understood, it is thought that genetic predisposition and environmental factors contribute to fibroid growth.
Fibroids may be single or multiple. They also vary in size and location within the uterus. They may be located inside the uterus (submucosal), in the muscle of the uterus (intramural) or outside the uterus (subserosal). Fibroids can be entirely symptom free or may cause a host of problems including:
- Pelvic discomfort and bloating
- Pelvic pain, pressure and backaches
- Heavy, prolonged and painful periods
- Bladder and bowel problems
- Painful intercourse
- Reproductive problems such as infertility and miscarriages
Fibroid location and growth pattern determines whether it will result in symptoms or cause problems. Intramural fibroids are the most common type. They usually do not cause a problem unless they grow large. Submucosal fibroids are the ones that are most commonly associated with abnormal menstrual bleeding and reproductive problems.
A gynecologic examination can usually identify larger fibroids. A pelvic ultrasound has evolved as the standard imaging study to diagnose and identify number, location and size of fibroids. Other imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), hysterosonography , hysterosalpingogram and sometimes an outpatient hysteroscopy may be needed to get additional information regarding management of specific fibroids.
Most fibroids do not require treatment. There are many ways to treat symptomatic uterine fibroids including:
- Medical – hormonal contraception (birth control pills), progesterone IUD, gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists (GnRH–a)
- Surgical – myomectomy (removal of fibroid), hysterectomy (removal of uterus)
- Radiologic – uterine artery embolization (clotting of blood vessels), MRI guided ultrasound surgery (destroys fibroid cells)
For more information regarding the management or treatment of your fibroids, We encourage you to contact the staff at the Viera Fertility Center.