Uterine fibroids are a benign growth, or tumor, that occurs in about 20% of women. Also called myomas, leiomyomas or fibromas, fibroids may be as small as a pea or as large as a basketball. They are unique to the uterus and not related to other problems such as fibrocystic breast disease or cysts in the thyroid or ovary. They may be on the inside, outside or within the wall of the uterus and rarely are found elsewhere not attached to the uterus.
Fibroids may cause pain or bleeding or both. Pain is usually located in the lower abdomen (pelvis) and may involve the bladder, rectum or low back. Pain may occur with periods or in between and may be worse with intercourse, standing or exercise. Some women have no symptoms and may never know that they have fibroids.
Fibroids may be felt during your annual exam or seen on ultrasound. If you suspect you have fibroids, mention it to your provider at your next visit.
Fibroids may be treated in various ways depending on which symptoms bother you most. If bleeding is a problem, treatment with birth control pills, progesterone injection or Novasure endometrial ablation may help. If pain is the main concern, treatment with anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen, Aleve, etc.), narcotics and surgery may help. Surgery includes myomectomy (removal of only the fibroids) for ladies desiring future pregnancy or total hysterectomy (removal of uterus and cervix) for ladies no longer wanting pregnancy. Uterine artery embolization is an alternative to hysterectomy for some women.
If you have fibroids, ask your provider to discuss the various treatments that may provide you relief.