A woman’s health risks are complex. Because of this, knowing what to be aware of is vital to making appropriate health care decisions. For example, fibroids are typically found in women, though women aren’t familiar with them. Most fibroids appear during ages 40-55. And by the age of 50, 20 to 80 percent of women have already developed fibroids.
Most women have fibroids some time in their lives. However, many women may not be aware because most fibroids don’t cause any symptoms. Very often, fibroids are found by chance during a pelvic exam or ultrasound.
- What are Fibroids?
Fibroids, also known as a leiomyoma or myoma, are mostly benign, muscular tumors. These tumors grow on the wall of the uterus (a woman’s womb) in both small bunches or one, single tumor. The size of fibroids can vary from as small as an imperceptible seed to as large as a grapefruit. In some cases, fibroids can grow so large that they impact other organs. Even when fibroids become large, they rarely develop into cancer.
- Symptoms of Fibroids
For most women, fibroids cause no symptoms at all. When they do experience symptoms, the size, location, and number of fibroids can affect the symptoms that occur:
Pain or pressure in the pelvic area Frequent urination Failure to empty bladder Constipations Menstrual periods that last longer than usual Heavy menstrual bleeding (more than is typical)Pain in the back or on legs In rare instances, a fibroid can cause extreme pain
- Diagnostic Tests
If a doctor suspects a woman has fibroids, they may ask for further tests. Laboratory tests are ordered to count red blood cells, check for blood loss, and rule out other disorders. An ultrasound can confirm the size and shape of the fibroids. If more detailed mapping of the fibroid is necessary, a doctor may order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to plan out treatment options. MRI’s are typically used in situations where a fibroid is larger in size or if a woman is near menopause.
In some cases, further tests can provide a more comprehensive view of a woman’s fibroids. A hysterosonography, for example, calls for the expansion of the uterus using a sterile saline infusion. This test provides a thorough sonographic view of the uterus. Another test, called a hysteroscopy, inserts a small telescope into the uterus through the cervix, allowing a doctor to closely examine the uterine walls and fallopian tubes.
The best approach to treating fibroids depends on the size and location of the fibroids, a woman’s age and childbearing plans, and whether the fibroids cause pain. Most women are able to live with fibroids without any impact on their life, especially if they show no signs or symptoms. Because fibroids rarely interfere with pregnancy, nor do they become cancerous, most fibroids can be left alone and monitored.
When fibroids cause changes like heavy menstrual bleeding or pain, medication is used to decrease the size of the fibroids. Oral contraceptives or hormone treatments can shrink fibroids, reducing their impact on the body. In the rare case that a fibroid needs to be removed, doctors can perform uterine injections or surgery. Injections of a solution into the uterus can cut off blood flow to fibroids, causing them to shrink.
Surgery, typically performed using a small camera at the end of a tupe (laparoscopic), can remove fibroids. There are a few situations where traditional surgical procedures such as a hysterectomy or abdominal myomectomy (used to for women who wish to bear children in the future) may be necessary.
- Do Fibroids Affect Fertility?
A concern for many women when they are diagnosed with fibroids is their ability to have children in the future. If a woman wishes to preserve her fertility, she may want to have an honest conversation with her doctor prior to making decisions regarding treatment.
Fibroids and FertilityUterine fibroids are benign (noncancerous) tumors of muscle tissue in the uterus. They are also called myomas or…
For example, treatments like an endometrial ablation or hysterectomy can impact a woman’s fertility. Discussing all the risks and benefits of each treatment with a doctor can allow a woman to make informed decisions.
A diagnosis of fibroids doesn’t necessarily mean that a woman will not be able to bear children in the future. It does, however, require informed decision making. Choosing the right treatment options for fibroids depends a lot on a woman’s awareness of risks and the impact on her fertility.