Uterine fibroids are common for many women, regardless of age. Fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus. Fibroids are also known as leiomyomas (lie-o-my-O-muhs) or myomas. They are generally not associated with cancer and do not typically pose a life-threatening risk.
Fibroids come in many shapes and sizes. They can be as small as seedlings or as large as a bulky mass and discomfort. You can have a single fibroid or many of them. In certain extreme cases, multiple fibroids can expand your uterus to the point that it reaches your rib cage and can add weight.
Dr. Lillian Schapiro and Dr. Kristan Adams at Ideal Gynecology can evaluate your fibroids and consider what treatments options may be best for you.
Causes of uterine fibroids
Scientists and doctors have suspicions about why uterine fibroids form. There is no one cause. Some potential causes include:
Genetics. If a family member has fibroids, you may be at risk. Your genetic makeup may also have different genes than those of normal uterine cells.
Hormones. Hormones are often a huge cause of fibroids. Estrogen and progesterone (the hormones that stimulate the development of the uterine lining) may promote growth in fibroids. Fibroids generally shrink after menopause and can decrease hormone production. Many women who have uterine fibroids experience these later in life.
Growth factors. Substances that help the body maintain tissues, such as insulin-like growth factor, may affect fibroid growth.
Pregnancy. During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone levels increase. Fibroids can develop and grow quickly during pregnancy.
Other factors including being over the age of 30 or older, of African-American descent, and having a high body weight may also contribute to fibroids.
Types of fibroids
The type of fibroid you have depends on its location in or on your uterus.
Intramural fibroids are common and typically appear within the muscular wall of the uterus. Over time, they can grow larger and stretch your womb.
Subserosal fibroids differ from a subserosal fibroid because they grow outside the uterus. They may even get large enough to make your womb appear bigger on one side.
A pedunculated fibroid is a more advanced stage. These form when a tumor develops a stem and supports the tumor.
Many women who experience fibroids may not feel any symptoms at all. However, for those who do experience symptoms, the most common are:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Menstrual periods lasting more than seven days
- Pelvic pressure
- Frequent UTIs
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
Your doctor can recommend a variety of treatments, some of which do not require surgery. These include:
To prevent more fibroids from developing, your doctor may recommend you stop taking birth control or hormone replacement therapy. In certain circumstances, you may need birth control to prevent anemia (bleeding).
Fibroids embolization will help shrink your fibroid. Your doctor does so by injecting polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) into the arteries that help the fibroid grow. The PVA chemical bloods the blood supply, cutting off its blood supply. Though this is not surgery, it may require downtime at home.
A myomectomy is a more permanent surgical option to remove fibroids completely. In many cases, your fibroids can be removed, but scarring on the uterine wall causes infertility. A myomectomy may require abdominal surgery, or your surgeon may use a hysteroscope or laparoscope to remove the fibroids without having to make a large cut on your abdomen.
SERMs are a prescribed medication that helps to regulate hormone levels, specifically your estrogen levels. They work by shrinking fibroids without causing residual menopausal symptoms.
For regular preventive care of fibroids or to discuss your treatment options, chat with the specialists at Ideal Gynecology. Book online, or call for your first appointment today.