A fibroid is a benign tumour of the uterus and it will often appear either within the muscular wall of the uterus or on the outside of the wall. It is thought that around 30% of all hysterectomies performed in the United States are due to fibroids.
It is not known what causes fibroids, although it is known that they are related to the production of oestrogen, although there are no clear studies showing that women who have fibroids have higher than average levels of oestrogen. It is known that, as with endometriosis, they will usually shrink following menopause.
The rate at which they grow depends on individual women, they can be very small or the size of a melon and the size can bear no resemblance to the severity of the symptoms experienced. but you may have had. You may also experience problems with your bladder if the fibroid presses on it. Finally, you may also find that sex is painful.
Fibroids may also interfere with conception if they protrude into the uterus. They may also be a cause of premature births if they are taking up too much room within the uterus. Both of these instances only happen rarely.
It is estimated that between 25 – 35% of all women will have fibroids of varying sizes.
The Center for Uterine Fibroids based at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts is conducting a study to determine if there is a genetic link to fibroids. They are looking for women with fibroids who have close female relatives who also have the condition. If you are interested in taking part follow the link. http://www.fibroids.net/finding_genes.html
- heavy or prolonged bleeding particularly if the fibroid is growing underneath the lining of the uterus as this increases the surface area of the uterus
- spotting between periods
- awareness of fullness or pressure in the abdomen
- increase in urinary frequency or stress incontinence
- constipation, if the fibroids are pressing on the rectum
- swelling of the abdomen
- pain in the abdomen if the blood supply to the fibroid is reduced which results in it dying off (usually due to a speedy growth)
- sudden, severe pain if a fibroid on a stalk (a pediculate fibroid) twists causing the blood supply to stop.
What Treatment is Available?
Observation may be recommended where the fibroids present no symptoms to the woman and if they appear to be growing slowly.
Drug therapies such as Synarel, which are also used in the treatment of endometriosis, may be used to shrink a large fibroid to a size where surgery can be performed to remove the fibroid without damaging the uterus beyond repair. They are also particularly useful where there is very heavy bleeding as they create an artificial menopause and bleeding is stopped. A potential side effect of these drugs is the menopausal symptoms that you may experience.
Alternative Medical Treatments
- Uterine Artery Embolisation
- Endometrial Ablation and Resection
- Magnetic Resonance Focused Ultrasound
- Myoma Coagulation or Myolysis