This is an abbreviated version of the complete article.*
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths in the uterus.
One in 4 women will develop fibroids at some point during their reproductive years.
Fibroids may cause heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, frequent urination, and other symptoms that require treatment.
Fibroids are benign tumors that can grow inside or outside the wall of the uterus. The tumors may grow larger over time, but are rarely cancerous. While some are as small as peas, some can grow to the size of a cantaloupe, and in rare cases, they may grow larger.
The cause of fibroids is unknown, but it is believed that they might be genetic in some women.
TYPES OF FIBROIDS
Intramural Fibroids-Develop in the muscle of the uterus and expand inward. These are often diagnosed during a pelvic examination. These fibroids may cause heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic or back pain.
Subserol Fibroids-Develop under the outside covering of the uterus and expand outward through the wall. These fibroids may cause pain and pressure in the pelvic area and back.
Submucosal Fibroids-Develop under the inside lining of the uterus. These fibroids may cause heavy bleeding and very prolonged menstrual periods.
Women may be at greater risk for fibroids if they are:
Middle aged, have never had children, and have a close female relative who has been diagnosed with fibroids;
Overweight and sedentary; and/or
Most women with fibroids experience no symptoms or complications. However, fibroids may become problematic, in which case a woman may experience:
Heavy and long menstrual periods;
Pressure on the bladder, which may cause urinary problems;
Pressure on the rectum, which may cause constipation; and/or
Lower back and/or leg pain.
A patient suspected of having fibroid tumors may undergo one or more of the following tests:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Computed Tomography (CT) scans
Small fibroids that do not cause symptoms may not require any treatment. The physician may recommend "watchful waiting," which means the fibroids will be left untreated for the time being but examined on a regular schedule. Some doctors recommend that women with fibroid tumors discontinue taking birth control pills with high doses of estrogen, since estrogen encourages the growth rate of the tumors. Some other treatment methods include:
Myomectomy (removal of fibroid tumors without harming the uterus);
Hormone medications called Gn-RH agonists;
Endometrial ablation (destroying the lining of the uterus with a laser or electricity);
Uterine fibroid embolization (the insertion of synthetic particles into the vessels leading to the tumor, which cuts off the blood supply, thereby shrinking the tumor)
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