Uterine fibroids are not the kind of ‘bun’ most of us expect to find growing in the oven
A uterine fibroid tumor may sound very scary. Generally it is not an uncommon or alarming condition. As many as one in four women have fibroid growths at some point in their lives. The most common occurrence of fibroids is during the childbearing years.
So what is it? A uterine fibroid is an unusual growth of cells in the uterus. They can range in size so small that they are not able to be seen with the human eye, to very large growths that expand the uterus like a growing fetus might.
The presence of fibroids does not increase a woman’s chance of uterine cancer. The fibroid itself is not cancerous and very seldom does it ever become so.
While not necessarily welcome guests, fibroids are usually well mannered. They are so quiet and unobtrusive that most women never even know they have them. The discovery of fibroids is usually made as a result of other medical procedures like during your annual pelvic exam or a prenatal ultrasound. Fibroids only rarely cause problems or have alarming symptoms.
If you have an ill-mannered fibroid the symptoms you can expect to feel vary depending on the size, location and type of fibroid you have. The most common symptoms are usually associated with your menstrual cycle and may include heavier menstrual flow than is normal, or break through bleeding (spotting or bleeding between your periods). You may notice your period lasts longer than is typical. Frequent urination or a feeling of urgency can also indicate a fibroid, because of pressure on the bladder. Constipation and feelings of pressure in the pelvis have also been reported
Only rarely does fibroid formation cause pain. This usually occurs only if the fibroid’s growth out strips its blood supply and it begins to deteriorate. Or if the fibroid’s growth stalk becomes twisted cutting off the blood supply. In either case the fibroid deteriorates and can cause pain as well as fever as is dies.
There is more than one school of thought when it comes to the root cause of fibroids. One of the most common is a simple genetic coding problem within a cell that causes it to replicate and grow outside its normal pattern.
Hormones too are thought to play a role. Fibroid tissues have a higher than usual concentration of the female hormones. This may indicate that fibroid growths are a bodily reaction to hormonal imbalances.
Other factors thought to play a role in fibroid formation include: other growth chemicals in the body, heredity and race.
It is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- persistent pain or discomfort in the pelvis
- bleeding between menstrual cycles
- difficulty with elimination (urine or bowels)
- very painful periods
- pain with sexual intercourse
There are a number of strategies your doctor may employ to treat fibroids. They range widely in how invasive they are. Common treatments of Uterine Fibroids include:
- Watchful waiting
- Medications that regulate the ovulation cycle or hormone levels
- Surgery called Myomectomy to remove or destroy the fibroids
- Uterine artery embolization, killing the fibroid by cutting off the blood supply
- Focused ultrasound surgery uses ultrasound to destroy the fibroid without
- Hysterectomy, this is rarely the treatment of choice and is only used in extreme
cases of uterine fibroids.