Fibroid tumors are noncancerous (benign) growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. While fibroids do not always cause symptoms, their size and location can lead to problems for some women, including pain and heavy bleeding.
Fibroids range in size from very tiny to quite large and may be located in various parts of the uterus. There are 3 types of uterine fibroids, Subserosal, Intramural, and Submucosal. Please discuss with your physician the different types of fibroid tumors.
What Causes Uterine Fibroids?
Doctors and researchers have been unable to determine an exact cause of uterine fibroids. However, they have been able to identify several contributing factors. These include genetic changes to the uterine muscle cells, hormone production and other growth factors such as insulin-like growth factor.
All women of reproductive age are at risk of developing uterine fibroids, however, some factors have been identified that may increase one’s risk. These include:
- Family history
- Early-onset menopause
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Alcohol consumption
What are the Symptoms?
Many women who have uterine fibroids don’t have any symptoms. If you do experience fibroid symptoms, they may include:
- Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods, sometimes with clots
- Anemia (fatigue due to low red blood count)
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pain or pressure between the hip bones or in the back of the legs
- Urinary frequency
- Constipation or bloating
- An enlarged belly
How are Uterine Fibroids Diagnosed?
Since uterine fibroids often don’t cause symptoms, in many cases they are diagnosed incidentally by an OB/GYN during a routine pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound. There are several imagining tests that may be used to confirm the diagnosis such as an ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-rays or CT scan.
A hysterosalpingogram (HSG), which is an X-ray using contrast dye, or a sonohysterogram, which is an ultrasound that involves injecting water into the uterus, may be used to obtain better imaging.
If imaging confirms the presence of uterine fibroids, there are two common treatment options available.
- Radio-Frequency Ablation (RFA)
Radio-Frequence Ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using imaging guidance. After applying local anesthetic to the vein, the interventionalist inserts a thin catheter, about the size of a strand of spaghetti, into the vein and guides it through the great saphenous vein in the thigh. Then laser or radiofrequency energy is applied to the inside of the vein to heat and seal the vein closed.
- Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is also a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using imaging guidance. During the UFE procedure, you are given sedation medication but remain conscious. An interventional radiologist (IR), inserts a catheter (a thin, hollow tube) into your upper thigh, or into your wrist, to access your artery. Tiny, round beads – each measuring about the size of a grain of sand – are injected into the catheter and into each fibroid-feeding vessel. These tiny beads block the flow of blood to the fibroids, causing the fibroids to shrink and relieving symptoms.
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