What is a fibroid?
Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumors that develop in the uterus commonly during a woman’s fertile years (between 30 and 50). Also called as fibromyoma, myoma, or uterine fibroma, they vary in size from just a few centimeters to up to 15 centimeters or more.
There are four types of fibroids namely Intramural (grows inside the wall of the uterus and the most common type), Subserosal (grows outside the wall of the uterus), Submucosal (grows in the muscle beneath the lining of the uterus wall), and Cervical (grow in the neck of the cervix).
A large majority of women with fibroids do not experience symptoms. This is the reason why patients with fibroids don’t know they have them unless they get pregnant or have been evaluated by their doctor for other gynecological conditions. When symptoms do manifest, they may include heavy painful periods, pain during intercourse, constipation or bloating, pain in the legs or back, frequent urination, anemia as a result of heavy periods, and pelvic pain or pressure.
There is no conclusive evidence as to why fibroids occur. But contributing factors being considered include the hormone estrogen, heredity, where gene mutations are likely to occur if a close family member has the tumor, and race, wherein African-American women are more likely to have fibroids compared to any other race.
Fibroids can be diagnosed through several types of examinations. Ultrasound scan is often used for patients experiencing heavy periods. Transvaginal scan is performed for a closer view of the uterus through the vagina. Hysteroscopy is the examination of the inside of the uterus using a small telescope in which sometimes a sample of the lining of the uterus has to be taken for a biopsy. Laparoscopy on the other hand is the examination of the outside of the uterus. And in some cases, biopsies are needed.
Patients who do not have the symptoms may not need any treatment. These fibroids may shrink or become less apparent during menopausal stage when the estrogen level is declining. Medication or surgical treatment may also be done, but these must be prescribed by licensed physicians.