Fibroids, or fibroid uterus, is the the name given to a noncancerous growth in the muscle layer of the uterus (the uterus is an extremely powerful muscle). They are very common, but especially in black women. About 25% of reproductive age women have them-much higher for black women.
Fibroids are benign and generally not problematic. Most are found during annual routine pelvic exam. Most of them regress over time–almost certainly by the time of menopause, since fibroids grow in response to estrogens/progesterones.
The problems start when one develops symptoms.
SYMPTOMS OF FIBROID UTERUS:
- pelvic pain, ranging from mild to quite severe
- back pain- prolonged menstrual or even non-menstrual bleeding
- problems with fertility- from the growth preventing implantation of a fertilized egg but this is not common
- constipation- from the growth pushing against the intestines
- frequent urination and kidney damage- from the growth pushing against the urinary bladder causing retention of urine.
**There is no increased risk of uterine cancer in women who develop fibroids. These growths tend to get larger instead of shrinking however.
RISK FACTORS: A woman’s risk for developing fibroids is higher if you are black or have a family history of fibroids.
IF YOU HAVE NO SYMPTOMS THEN TREATMENT MAY NOT BE NECESSARY! The treatments for fibroids vary from medications, ranging from hormonal therapy, to surgical procedures that remove the fibroids (myectomy) to hysterectomies in severe cases. The treatment strategy often depends on the presence or absence of symptoms, severity of symptoms and the desire of the woman to become pregnant. In many cases, a myectomy can be done to resolve fertility issues.
One of the newer procedures is call uterine artery embolization (UAE) in which the blood/oxygen supply to the fibroid growths is cut off, thereby causing fibroid shrinkage.
Keep in mind that just because you have pain from the fibroid tumors doesn’t mean you will necessarily have trouble becoming pregnant. If you have attempted unsuccessfully to become pregnant, you should have an in depth conversation with your gynecologist and high-risk obstetric specialist about the treatment options and which is right for you.