Fibroids are rubbery, benign tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus and sometimes on the cervix.
Fibroids are only rarely found in other parts of the body and they’re rarely cancerous. The cause of fibroids is not completely understood. However, they seem to be linked to an abnormal response to estrogen. There is evidence that fibroids grow larger with the use of oral contraceptives and with hormone replacement therapy. There’s also evidence that progesterone levels stimulate fibroid growth.
SYMPTOMS OF FIBROIDS
- abdominal swelling
- heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding
- bleeding after intercourse
- pain during intercourse
- pain or pressure in the lower back or abdomen
- anemia from excessive bleeding
- chronic constipation
HOW FIBROIDS ARE DIAGNOSED
In the absence of symptoms, fibroids are often detected during a routine pelvic examination. If there are fibroids present the uterus will be enlarged and feel irregular. An additional examination with ultrasound can determine the number and location of the fibroids.
HOW FIBROIDS ARE TREATED
If the tumors are small, no treatment is required. Your doctor may wish to follow through with ultrasound and pelvic exams to monitor them. Pain caused by the presence of fibroids can often be relieved with over-the-counter analgesics such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen. If anemia is present, iron supplements can correct the anemia. If the fibroids are responsible for more serious problems, removal of the fibroids or the uterus, or drug treatment may be used.
During a myomectomy the fibroids are removed with a laparascope and a laser. The fibroids are cut out or the abdomen is opened and the fibroids are removed.
A hysterectomy involves removing the uterus and the fibroids within it. Depending upon the size of the fibroids this can be done vaginally or through abdominal surgery. With this procedure the ovaries can usually remain to avoid surgically induced menopause. A hysterectomy will also be performed on the rare occasion the fibroids are cancerous. Always get a second opinion when a hysterectomy is recommended.
A special hormone is given to block the production of estrogen by the ovaries. This can shrink fibroids in some cases. This treatment can be done to allow minor surgery for fibroid removal. These drugs can only be used for short periods of time because of the side effects. When the medication is stopped, the fibroids may return.