As many as four in five women under the age of 50 have uterine fibroids, a type of muscular tumor that grows on the walls of the uterus. Although most fibroids are noncancerous, they can still be problematic, causing chronic pelvic pressure, painful periods, or heavy menstrual cycles. The team of women’s health experts at Annandale Ob-Gyn & Primary Care in Annandale and Alexandria, Virginia, offer comprehensive treatment solutions for women with fibroids, including surgery. To learn more, call the office or book an appointment online today.
What are uterine fibroids?
Fibroids are benign growths on the uterine wall that typically emerge during a woman’s childbearing years. Women who are in their 40s or early 50s are most likely to develop them.
Also known as leiomyomas, or simply “myomas,” fibroids can occur as a single tumor or as multiple tumors. They can also vary greatly in size, ranging from tiny seed-like growths that are virtually undetectable to grapefruit-sized growths that distend the uterus. In women with multiple, large fibroids, the uterus may expand upward as far as the ribcage.
Fibroids can grow anywhere on the wall of the uterus. They can appear on the inner surface of the wall, within the uterine cavity, or they can develop along the organ’s outside surface. They can also occur within the uterine wall itself.
Fibroids aren’t likely to become cancerous, and having fibroids doesn’t increase your chances of developing uterine cancer, either.
What are the signs and symptoms of fibroids?
Many women with uterine fibroids don’t know that they have them, either because they don’t experience any symptoms, or because the symptoms they do experience are mild or similar to normal premenstrual symptoms.
If you have multiple fibroids, large fibroids, or fibroids that are located in a problematic area, you’re more likely to experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Chronic pelvic pressure
- Ongoing feelings of fullness
- Persistent lower back pain
- Lower abdominal distention
- Long, frequent, or heavy periods
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Pain during intercourse
Uterine fibroids are also associated with an increased risk of complication during pregnancy and childbirth; pregnant women who have fibroids are six times more likely to require a Cesarean delivery.
How are fibroids diagnosed?
In many cases, fibroids are discovered by chance during a routine pelvic exam, which includes checking your uterus for any noticeable abnormalities. If your gynecologist at Annandale Ob-Gyn & Primary Care can feel an unusual growth with their fingers, they’ll have you undergo a diagnostic ultrasound test to see if you have fibroids or something else.
If an ultrasound doesn’t uncover enough information, your gynecologist may perform a minor, in-office surgical procedure to better examine any potential fibroid masses. The specific procedure you’ll have — either hysteroscopic or laparoscopic surgery — depends on whether the tumor is located inside your uterus or along its outer wall.
How are fibroids treated?
Women with small, unobtrusive fibroids generally don’t require treatment of any kind, unless they begin to cause disruptive symptoms. Fibroids that don’t call for early treatment typically shrink on their own during menopause.
If your fibroids cause bothersome or severe symptoms, or if you don’t want your fibroids to interfere with a future pregnancy, the team at Annandale Ob-Gyn & Primary Care offers several effective treatment solutions.
Hormonal birth control medications can help reduce pelvic pain and heavy periods for women with fibroids who aren’t planning to become pregnant. A myomectomy, or the surgical removal of fibroids, is often the best treatment solution for women with significant fibroids who wish to become pregnant in the near future.
Because fibroids tend to be an ongoing problem, the only way to get rid of them completely is by having a hysterectomy, or surgically removing the uterus. This long-term solution is best for women who have significant symptoms and no longer want to have children.
To learn more about how fibroids are treated, call the office or book an appointment online today.