By Dr Brighton Chireka
Fibroids needs our attention as they can be present for some time without causing any symptoms. The growths are non-cancerous tumours that grow in or around the womb(uterus). They are made up of muscle and fibrous tissue and vary in size. They are sometimes known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas. I am raising awareness of these benign growth as some women may be suffering in silence. I have had a few questions about fibroids send into my inbox and this is my answer to this topic.
What are the symptoms of fibroids ?
Many women are unaware they have fibroids as they do not have any symptoms. Women who do have symptoms may experience:
tummy (abdominal) or lower back pain
Heavy periods or painful periods
a frequent need to urinate
pain or discomfort during sex
In rare cases, fibroids can cause significant complications, such as infertility and problems during pregnancy.
How are fibroids diagnosed?
As most women have no symptoms diagnosis of fibroids can be by chance when investigating for other problems. However if one has symptoms mentioned above , she should see her own doctor for further examination. Your doctor may request a scan to assess the uterus which will confirm the presence of fibroids.
Why fibroids develop?
The exact cause of these growths is unknown. However, they are linked to the hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen is the female reproductive hormone produced by the ovaries (the female reproductive organs).
Fibroids usually develop during a woman’s reproductive years (from approximately 16 to 50 years of age) when oestrogen levels are at their highest, and they tend to shrink when oestrogen levels are low, such as after the menopause (when a woman’s monthly periods stop at around 50 years of age).
Types of fibroids
They can grow anywhere in the womb and vary in size considerably. Some can be the size of a pea, whereas others can be the size of a melon.
The main types of fibroids are:
intramural– the most common type of fibroid, they develop in the muscle wall of the womb
subserosal – fibroids that develop outside the wall of the womb into the pelvis and can become very large
submucosal – these develop in the muscle layer beneath the inner lining of the womb and grow into the middle of the womb
In some cases, subserosal or submucosal fibroids are attached to the womb with a narrow stalk of tissue. These are known as pedunculated.
If they do not cause symptoms, treatment is not needed. They will often shrink and disappear without any treatment over time, particularly after the menopause.
If you do have symptoms caused by fibroids, medication to help relieve the symptoms will usually be recommended first. This may include medication to reduce the bleeding during periods or painful periods.
If these medications are ineffective, surgery or other less invasive procedures may be recommended.
Surgical treatment of fibroids
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the womb. It is the most effective way of preventing fibroids coming back. This is usually recommended if the growths are too big and also if the women no longer need to have anymore children.
A myomectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the fibroids from the wall of your womb. It may be considered as an alternative to a hysterectomy, particularly for women who still wish to have children. In this procedure only the growth is removed leaving the uterus.
Uterine artery embolisation (UAE)
Uterine artery embolisation (UAE) is an alternative procedure to a hysterectomy or myomectomy for treating fibroids. It may be recommended for women with large fibroids. UAE is performed by a radiologist (a doctor trained to interpret X-Rays and scans). It involves blocking the blood vessels that supply the fibroids, causing them to shrink.
Endometrial ablation is a relatively minor procedure that involves removing the lining of the womb. It is mainly used to reduce heavy bleeding in women with fibroids, but it can also be used to treat small fibroids in the womb lining.
The affected womb lining can be removed in a number of ways, for example by using laser energy, a heated wire loop, microwave heating or hot fluid in a balloon.
If after reading this article and you think you may have these growths, do not panic just visit your doctor for further tests. Kindly share the article so as to spread the message and do not forget to leave me a message or a comment.
This article was compiled by Dr. Brighton Chireka who is a GP and a Health Commissioner in South Kent Coast in the United Kingdom. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org and can read more of his work on his blog at DR CHIREKA’S BLOG
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Dr Chireka has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. Views expressed here are personal and do not in any way , shape or form represent the views of organisations that Dr Chireka work for or is associated wi