Uterine fibroids are extremely common benign growths, that often don’t cause symptoms. However, when fibroids do cause symptoms, they should be treated to prevent complications. At Memphis Obstetrics & Gynecological Association, PC, with locations in Memphis, Germantown, and Bartlett, Tennessee, as well as Southaven, Mississippi, our team offers several strategies to ease fibroid symptoms. Call the office or request an appointment online to learn more about your fibroid condition.
Also called myomas or leiomyomas, fibroids are non-cancerous growths that often develop in your uterus during your childbearing years. Fibroids rarely develop into cancer, and your risk of developing cancer isn’t greater because of fibroids. These growths range in size from microscopic to large, bulky masses.
Fibroids often create no symptoms at all and may be discovered only during unrelated diagnostic procedures, such as pelvic exams or ultrasounds. However, when uterine fibroids become symptomatic they can cause many issues, including:
The precise causes of fibroids aren’t known, but research suggests that the hormones estrogen and progesterone may assist the growth of fibroids. This may also explain why fibroids tend to shrink after menopause when hormone levels substantially decrease. Genetic changes and growth factors may also encourage fibroid development. It’s thought that stem cells in the myometrium – the muscular tissue of the uterus – develop into fibroids.
There are several risk factors associated with the development of uterine fibroids. If your mother or sisters have fibroids, your chances increase. Black women are more prone to fibroids, and these may occur at a younger age and may be larger and more numerous than those occurring in other races. Early onset of menstruation increases your risk, as does the use of hormonal birth control, obesity, diets high in red meat and low in green vegetables, and use of alcohol.
Since fibroids aren’t cancerous and rarely interfere with pregnancy, it’s usually the severity of symptoms that dictate treatment. There are hormone therapy medications that can reduce symptoms by addressing hormone balance issues. This usually moderates pelvic pressure and heavy menstrual bleeding, but only rarely shrinks the size of fibroids.
When surgery is the only alternative, fibroids may be removed as part of the hysteroscopy procedure, which is used to confirm the presence of fibroids. Other minimally invasive surgical techniques, including laparoscopy and robotically-assisted surgery, may be used, depending on the size and location of the fibroids.