What women should know about uterine fibroids
If you experience heavy periods or pelvic pain/pressure, you might be wondering if you have fibroids. About 35 million women in the United States have uterine fibroids. While most of them experience no symptoms, about 7 million women have debilitating symptoms, and of those, about 2 million seek medical care. Albert Odom, MD, shared information about fibroid symptoms and treatment options, including a minimally invasive procedure that can be done.
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that occur in the uterus, often in women of childbearing age. Dr. Odom said they are not related to or cause uterine cancer, and very rarely do they develop cancerous chains themselves. They may vary in size, being as small as a seedling or large enough to extend the uterus all the way up to the rib cage.
What the risks for developing uterine fibroids?
Dr. Odom said while there aren’t many known risks, the greatest risk is simply being a woman of reproductive age. However, here are some factors that influence uterine fibroids:
- Heredity. If women in your family have them, you are more likely to have them yourself.
- Race. African-American women are at greater risk for having fibroids
- Lifestyle. Vitamin D deficiency, obesity, a diet high in red meat and low in vegetables and fruit, as well as alcohol use.
What are the symptoms?
Uterine fibroids are characterized by where they are located in the uterus. Submucosal fibroids are located in the cavity. Intramural fibroids are at the wall of the uterus, and subserosal fibroids are outside of the uterus. Dr. Odom said while most women don’t have any fibroid symptoms at all, some symptoms might include:
- Heavy or elongated periods
- Pelvic pressure/pain
- Urinary infrequency
- Back pain
What are the treatment options?
There are many ways to treat uterine fibroids, including medicine and surgery. A hysterectomy removes the uterus completely, and a myomectomy removes the fibroids.
“A technique called radiofrequency ablation of individual fibroids by laparoscopy is also a treatment option,” Dr. Odom said. This technique uses ultrasound technology against the fibroid and radiofrequency energy to heat up the fibroid and shrink it.
Dr. Odom said the most common way to diagnose uterine fibroids is to have a pelvic ultrasound. If you are experiencing symptoms of fibroids, schedule an appointment with your gynecologist.
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