As many as 60 percent of women in their 30s or older have uterine fibroids. Most don’t even know it.
Fibroids are tumors of smooth muscle tissue that form in the uterus. They are almost always benign, meaning they are not cancerous. But in some cases, you may need fibroids treatment.
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How Are Fibroids Diagnosed?
If you have signs of fibroids, such as heavy periods, pain in your low back or belly, or pain during sex, you doctor will likely perform a pelvic ultrasound to look for anything unusual. The ultrasound will also help determine the size and location of fibroids if present.
In some cases, you doctor may need to perform a hysteroscopy to see fibroids located in the uterine cavity. In this procedure, a scope is inserted through the cervix into the uterus.
For large fibroids, your doctor may recommend an MRI to see the fibroids in comparison with surrounding organs.
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How Are Fibroids Treated?
You won’t need treatment for small fibroids that aren’t causing any symptoms. Women nearing menopause also don’t usually need treatment for fibroids. When you enter menopause and your estrogen levels drop, the fibroids shrink on their own.
About 25 percent of women with fibroids have symptoms that need treatment. Fibroids treatment depends on the size and location of the growths, as well as the severity of your symptoms.
If you are having symptoms from fibroids, talk with your doctor about your options to receive the most relief, while supporting your future plans.
Estrogen makes fibroids grow, so your doctor may recommend birth control pills or other hormone therapy to reduce the symptoms or shrink the fibroids. These also help lessen the bleeding during periods. However, hormone therapy is not a permanent solution, and you may need future treatment if the fibroids return.
You can take over-the-counter pain relievers for cramps and an iron supplement if you become anemic from heavy periods.
Hysterectomy remains a common treatment for fibroids, Your choice for a hysterectomy depends on your symptoms and plans to have children in the future.
This is a major surgery that removes the uterus and may remove other reproductive organs like the ovaries.
Hysterectomy is recommended for women with severe symptoms from large, fast-growing fibroids. A hysterectomy is the only way to fully cure fibroids, but you cannot conceive after the surgery.
You may have the surgery abdominally, vaginally, or laparoscopically, depending on your situation. A vaginal or laparoscopic hysterectomy is less extensive, and you will have a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery. For either procedure, you can expect a recovery period of a few weeks.
Myomectomy is a less invasive procedure that removes the fibroids, but leaves the uterus in place.
When you have minimally invasive surgery, you can likely go home the day of surgery. It takes about 2 weeks to fully recover. Recovery time and the exact procedure you may have varies based on the size and location of your fibroids.
You can become pregnant after this procedure, but new fibroids may grow back in a few years.
Fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that cuts off the blood flow to the fibroids, causing them to shrink.
This procedure helps reduce heavy bleeding and shrinks the fibroids, helping to relieve other symptoms such as:
- Frequent urination
However, it does not remove the fibroids. It may not be recommended for women planning to become pregnant, though it may be appropriate in some cases.
Radiofrequency ablation is a new technique for shrinking fibroids by directly heating the fibroids. This is done through a minimally invasive surgical approach. This procedure may be an option depending on the size and location of the fibroid.
» For more information on uterine fibroids, please contact the Magee Fibroid Treatment Center at 412-641-4435.
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. More than 9,000 babies are born each year at Magee. The hospital also treats men for a variety of conditions, including surgical treatment. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first center to focus research only on conditions involving women and their infants.