Fibroids are benign tumors primarily made up of smooth muscle cells and connective tissue. They range in size from as tiny as a watermelon seed to as large as a cantaloupe. Women of childbearing age are most at risk of developing fibroids.
While in most cases you may not know you have a fibroid, some women experience symptoms such as:
Risk factors for developing them include early onset of menses, being obese, drinking alcohol, use of birth control, and having a family history of fibroids.
Doctors don’t really know what causes fibroids to grow, but there are a few theories. Some doctors think hormones, including possibly estrogen, progesterone, and growth hormones, contribute to the growth of fibroids. There’s also a theory that fibroids develop from genetic changes that occur in the cells found in the uterine lining.
Fibroids are typically found during your routine pelvic exam and then confirmed through a diagnostic procedure such as an ultrasound, MRI, or X-ray.
If you’re not symptomatic, Dr. Weyhrich may suggest that no treatment is needed. And if you’re postmenopausal, the fibroid may shrink on its own.
For symptomatic fibroids, hysterectomies are a common form of treatment. In fact, fibroids are most often the reason women elect to have a hysterectomy.
If you’re not ready for a hysterectomy but want the fibroid removed, Dr. Weyhrich may suggest a myomectomy, which is a removal of only the tumor. Medications that reduce estrogen, including gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists or anti-hormonal agents, may help reduce the growth of a fibroid.
Uterine fibroid embolization, which is a minimally-invasive procedure that cuts off the blood supply to the fibroids causing them to shrink, is a more recent technique for managing fibroids. If fibroids are causing you distress, Dr. Weyhrich discusses the options with you to determine the best treatment for your individual health.
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