What Are Uterine Fibroids?Uterine fibroids are common, noncancerous growths in the uterus. They also are called leiomyomas or myomas. A woman may develop only one fibroid or may develop multiple growths.
Uterine fibroids occur in up to 40 percent of women and as high as 50 percent in some populations, such as Black women. Your risk for fibroids may also be higher if you have a family history of fibroids, or had early onset puberty (started having your period young).
Uterine fibroids cannot be prevented but having regular pelvic exams may reduce your risk of experiencing prolonged symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?Fibroids do not always cause symptoms but can result in heavy and prolonged menstrual periods. Some women with fibroids may experience infertility or trouble getting pregnant.
Signs of uterine fibroids may also include:
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Belly swelling
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Blood clots in menstrual flow
- Periods that last longer than normal
- Bleeding between periods
- Cramping during periods
- Pain during sex
How Are Fibroids Diagnosed?Uterine Fibroids are often discovered during routine pelvic exams. To confirm the presence of fibroids, a doctor will typically order a test to see inside the uterus. These tests include:
Ultrasonography: An ultrasound test that uses sound waves to create a picture of the inside of the uterus.
Sonohysterography: In this test, a saline solution is transferred into the uterus with a catheter before an ultrasound. The saline can improve the clarity of the images captured with the ultrasound.
If you are having symptoms of a uterine fibroid, a doctor may also order a blood test to rule out other possible diagnoses or check for related conditions, such as anemia.
How Are Uterine Fibroids Treated?Large uterine fibroids may need to be removed . Smaller uterine fibroids may not require treatment, although your doctor may monitor them to make sure they don’t grow.
Traditionally, large uterine fibroids were treated with surgical therapy, which may include complete removal of the uterus (hysterectomy). Less invasive surgical procedures, called myomectomies, also exist. In a myomectomy, a surgeon will remove the fibroids and leave the uterus intact.
Denver Health offers uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive way to treat fibroids which preserves the uterus. Through a small incision in the skin in the groin or wrist, using x-ray guidance, a catheter is directed into the arteries which supply the uterus. Small particles are injected into the arteries blocking the blood flow to the fibroids causing them to shrink.
What to Expect After UFE Treatment
Typically a hospital stay is not required after uterine fibroid embolization. Pelvic pain and cramping are common for the first few days and oral pain medications are prescribed as needed. Most women are able to return to normal activity in about one week.
On average, 85-90 percent of women will experience significant or total relief of their symptoms. This procedure is safe and effective for even large or multiple fibroids, and the recurrence of treated fibroids is rare.
If you are interested in learning more about uterine fibroid embolization and meeting with one of our physicians, please call 303-602-4150.
Other resources: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/uterine-fibroids