Written by Dr. Naglaa Rizk, Consultant – Gynaecologist
Uterine fibroids are abnormal growths of muscle tissue in the uterus (womb). They are also called leiomyoma or myoma. Fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous), but can range in size and number.
Depending on their size and location within the uterus, a woman’s symptoms may vary. Some women have no symptoms at all. Others symptoms may include:
- heavy menstrual bleeding or pain
- pelvic pain or pressure,
- low back pain
- painful intercourse
- pressure on the bladder or rectum
- complications during pregnancy.
In some cases, if the fibroids grow very large, they may even make a woman’s belly look bigger.
Being very common, up to 80% of women will develop fibroids by the age of 50. Although the cause of fibroids is not known, we do know that fibroids grow rapidly during pregnancy and tend to shrink after menopause. Very rarely (less than one in 1,000), cancer can occur in a fibroid. This is called leiomyosarcoma.
Fibroids are generally diagnosed by ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Depending on their size, number, future fertility concerns and a woman’s symptoms, the treatment can vary. There are medication options to treat anaemia and heavy bleeding. Doctors can prescribe certain medications to decrease the amount of menstrual bleeding. There are hormonal options as well that may minimize the extent of bleeding involved.
In certain cases, fibroids may be treated with Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE), a procedure that blocks the blood supply to the fibroid and causes it to shrink. In other cases, surgical options may be required. These include myomectomy (removal of the fibroid only) or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus itself). In most cases, these surgeries are performed using minimally invasive techniques such as laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). This allows the woman to leave the hospital the day after her surgery.