Uterine Fibroids 101

What are Uterine Fibroids?

Fibroids – also called leiomyomas – are non-cancerous tumors, or growths, that appear on the walls of the uterus. Although they are composed of the same smooth muscle fibers as the uterine wall (myometrium), they are much denser than normal myometrium.

Uterine fibroids can be all sizes but are usually round. Fibroids have no predictable growth pattern, so some can be very small – like a seed or pea – while others grow large – as big as an orange or small melon – and cause considerable discomfort.

Though fibroids are growths, they are typically not associated with an increased risk of cancer. On rare occasions, malignant growths on the smooth muscles inside the womb, called leiomyosarcoma, can develop.

How Are Fibroids Diagnosed?

To determine if you are suffering from fibroids, your doctor must perform a pelvic exam and ultrasound.

Who is Susceptible to Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids affect at least 20 percent of all women during their lifetime.

Statistics show that women between age 30 and 50 are most likely to suffer from fibroids. The most common time women suffer from fibroids is during a woman’s reproductive years because when estrogen levels are high (as during pregnancy) fibroids swell. As women age and estrogen levels decline (as during menopause) fibroids shrink.

Women who are overweight or obese have a significantly higher risk of developing fibroids. Another key factor is heredity. Women whose mothers or sisters have had fibroids are also at a higher risk of developing them.

What are the Symptoms?

Most women with uterine fibroids will display no symptoms, which is why they often go undetected.

However, fibroid size, location within in the uterus, and proximity to adjacent pelvic organs can cause many painful and inconvenient symptoms. The most common symptoms are abnormal bleeding, pain, and unusual abdominal pressure. Other symptoms include the following:

  • Anemia (resulting from heavy periods)
  • Backache
  • Constipation
  • Difficulties during labor
  • Issues with fertility
  • Lower abdominal discomfort (especially if the fibroids are large)
  • Frequent urination
  • Heavy, painful periods,
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain in the legs
  • Pregnancy problems
  • Repeated miscarriages
  • Swelling in the lower abdomen (especially if fibroids are large)

How Do You Treat Fibroids?

The physicians at Indiana Fibroid Center are some of the most experienced in the Midwest at performing Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE).

UFE is an outpatient non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure that effectively treats symptomatic uterine fibroids.

The procedure has a greater than 90 percent success rate at relieving uterine fibroid symptoms and has been performed in the United States for more than 20 years.