Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths, or tumors, in the uterus. The fibroids are comprised of muscle cells and tissue that grow in and around the walls of the uterus.
"They can be some of the largest tumors that can grow in the body," plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon says.
Three out of four women will develop fibroids at some point in their lifetime. Though the cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, research shows that African-American and overweight women are at greater risk to develop them.
• Heavy periods
• Prolonged periods
• Pelvic pain
• Frequent urination
• Back pain
For many women, not only are uterine fibroids painful, they can significantly impede or prohibit their ability to conceive and can cause preterm labor. In some cases, a hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus, is the only effective treatment option for the condition. There are four ways in which a hysterectomy can be performed.
However, OB-GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson says there are less-invasive treatments for uterine fibroids that preserve a woman's reproductive options.
A myomectomy is the surgical removal of uterine fibroids from the uterus. The procedure is the preferred treatment for women who want to become pregnant.
A laparoscopy is a surgical procedure that utilizes a laparoscope, a thin, lighted tube with a camera at the end, which is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision. The laparoscope allows the doctor to visualize the pelvic cavity, and instruments are either inserted through the laparoscope or other small incisions in the abdomen to remove the fibroids.
Uterine Artery Embolization
Radiologists can perform a uterine artery embolization to cut off the blood supply to uterine fibroids, which is a far less aggressive alternative to removing the uterus. The procedure is effective but not recommended for women who still wish to bear children.
Uterine fibroids can grow in response to the hormone estrogen, so doctors can prescribe anti-estrogen medications such as progesterone. However, excessive progesterone can stimulate menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis, so hormonal therapy cannot be used as a long-term solution.