What are fibroids?
Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growths that develop in the muscle wall of the uterus. Between 20-40% of women over the age of 35 have fibroids, but they do not always cause symptoms. Fibroids vary in size but can grow to be very large, up to the size of a 5 or 6 month pregnancy. They typically improve after the menopause. Fibroids are also called by other terms including leiomyoma and myoma.
Most fibroids do not cause symptoms and do not need treatment. Symptoms depend on the number, size and location of fibroids, and they may cause;
- Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods that can cause anaemia
- Pelvic pain
- Pelvic pressure or heaviness often described as ‘bloating’ of the abdomen
- Bladder and bowel pressure resulting in the need to constantly pass urine or causing constipation.
Fibroids are typically multiple and are described by their location as shown on the diagram to the right.
For symptomatic fibroids there are three main types of treatment:
- Medical therapy - using drugs to control symptoms including hormonal treatments;
- Surgical therapy - there are a growing number of surgical options available including endometrial ablation and hysteroscopic resection; myomectomy – laparoscopic (‘key hole’) and abdominal (‘open’); and hysterectomy,
- Embolisation, which is minimally invasive using a catheter under x-ray guidance to block the blood vessels supplying the fibroids with small particles. Without a supply of blood, the fibroid die off and shrink by an average of 40 - 50% over a 3 to 6 month period.
A gynaecologist and interventional radiologist should be able to talk through these treatment options in more detail. Click here to learn more.