If you’ve just been diagnosed with uterine fibroids then understandably, you might be feeling slightly shell-shocked, somewhat confused, and certainly, a little worried.
Thoughts of “What exactly are they?” and “Are they dangerous?” are probably running through your mind. However, unlike periods and the menopause, fibroids are not widely talked about, so it’s understandable that you might be a little in the dark as to what you need to do. For this reason, we’ve put together some of the most important factors that women need to know about fibroids.
Firstly – Uterine fibroids – what are they?
Uterine fibroids are non-malignant muscle tissue growths that develop inside the wall of the uterus and sometimes on the outside. They can vary both in size and number ranging from a single growth to multiple growths, with each one being anything from the size of an apple pip right up to a large watermelon.
Secondly – are uterine fibroids dangerous?
Despite uterine fibroids being common -as many as 70%-80% of all American women develop fibroids by the time they’re 50 – they aren’t normally dangerous. In fact experts suggest that less than one in one thousand cases turn into cancer and even then, physicians aren’t entirely convinced that leiomyosarcoma (a soft tissue malignant cancer of the uterus) is caused by existing fibroids.
That said, fibroids can present problems for pregnant women. When a uterus is pushed out of shape by a large fibroid, the possibility of miscarriage is more probable. Furthermore, becoming pregnant could be problematic should a fibroid interfere with the menstrual cycle or block a fallopian tube.
So what causes them?
No-one can say with certainty. Although certain factors point to the risk of developing fibroids including:
- Family history
- Menstruation starting at a lower than average age
- A diet containing a large amount of red meat and very few green vegetables
It’s also thought that the hormones progesterone and estrogen, which occur mostly during the menstruation cycle, promote the growth of fibroids which explains why many fibroids shrink after the menopause.
How do I know if I have uterine fibroids?
Not all women with fibroids develop symptoms, so they can be hard to diagnose. In these cases, it’s pretty normal for them to be discovered ‘by accident’ during a routine pelvic examination.
On the flip side, other women develop one or more symptoms including:
- Heavy bleeding during menstruation
- Periods that last for more than a week
- Constant urge to urinate and difficulty in emptying the bladder
- Pain in the back and/or legs
- Cramping in the pelvis
What tests can be done to substantiate the cause?
If your doctor suspects uterine fibroids they may recommend an ultrasound or other more advanced tests, including:
- An MRI – this can show the whereabouts and size of fibroids. It can also rule out cancer.
- Hysteroscopy – this involves inserting a long thin tube through the vagina and into the uterus in order to carefully examine the uterus walls
- Hysterosonography – Saline is injected into the uterus to make it expand so that it’s easier to view using ultrasound.
So I have uterine fibroids – Can they be cured?
The good news is that if you have fibroids but show no symptoms at all, then treatment isn’t always necessary. Instead, your physician might monitor you closely over a period of time for any changes in size or number.
Alternatively, if you’re showing mild symptoms, then typically medications (i.e pain medications, contraceptives) can be used to alleviate symptoms. Additionally, iron supplements can be used during periods of heavy bleeding to prevent anemia.
In women with moderate to severe symptoms then more definitive management is needed. These include:
- Myomectomy – Removal of fibroids without removing the tissue of the uterus.
- Hysterectomy – The removal of the uterus by surgical means.
A word about Hysterectomy
Traditionally fibroids have been one of the leading reasons for a hysterectomy to be performed. Indeed, approximately 600,000 women a year in the United States undergo this process according to The Center for Disease and Prevention and while they’re extremely common, you may be surprised to learn that research shows that many aren’t always necessary.
So what other options do I have if I do not want surgery?
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
Here at the Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy (MINT), we use a non-surgical minimally invasive procedure that safely shrinks the size of fibroids while maintaining the uterus and eliminates any symptoms associated with them. This treatment – Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) – has been shown to be equivalent to hysterectomy in resolving symptoms while being less invasive.
Why not contact MINT today on 314 255 2204 to find out more about the UFE procedure and how it can help you.