Although about 30% of American women over the age of 30 have uterine fibroids, when you get the diagnosis, you’re not happy to join that team. You may have never even heard of fibroids before. What did you do to get them? And what should you do now?
Rafiq Mian, MD, our expert OB/GYN, diagnoses and treats uterine fibroids at Mian OB/GYN & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland. Here’s what you need to know about your fibroids, and how to manage them.
Fibroids aren’t dangerous
The good news is that you can relax your fears about cancer or other serious consequences of fibroids. Fibroids are benign tumors that are basically just lumps of the same muscle cells that make up your uterus.
Fibroids can grow anywhere in the uterus. You can have one or all of the types of fibroids:
These fibroids are localized to the uterine wall. They don’t push inward into the uterus.
Submucosal fibroids originate inside the uterine wall, but they also extend into the uterine cavity.
These fibroids are located on the exterior of the uterus.
Pedunculated fibroids can appear anywhere. Unlike other fibroids, which look like balls or lumps, these fibroids rest on stalks that extend from the uterus. Sometimes the stalks twist, causing pain, nausea, and fever.
Fibroids can range in size from smaller than a pea to as large as a soccer ball.
You can’t control most risk factors
The bad news is that you can’t prevent fibroids ahead of time if you know that they run in your family, or if you simply don’t want them. We don’t yet know any particular mechanism of action that causes the uterus to develop fibroids.
Risk factors for getting fibroids include:
- Age 30-40
- African heritage
- Mother or sister who has fibroids
- Having never been pregnant
- Being obese
As you can see, most of the risk factors are related to your genetics, so they can’t be controlled. However, you’re less likely to develop fibroids if you’ve been pregnant at least once.
You can also reduce your risk — especially if you don’t have other risk factors — if you lose excess weight and eat a healthy diet. Women who minimize red meat and eat lots of green vegetables seem to have a reduced risk for fibroids.
You don’t necessarily need to do anything
If you have fibroids and don’t have any symptoms, you don’t have to do anything to treat or remove them. However, when fibroids grow large enough, they can make your periods heavy and uncomfortable or cause urinary urgency or incontinence.
Symptoms of fibroids include:
- Painful periods
- Heavy bleeding
- Insomnia due to heavy bleeding
- Swollen abdomen
- Urinary incontinence
- Bladder pressure
- Painful sex
- Back pain
- Pelvic pain
If you’re trying to get pregnant and your fibroids are large, you may need to shrink or remove them to increase your chances of conception and a successful pregnancy.
How to treat fibroids
When fibroids interfere with your quality of life or your fertility, we can help. Depending on how large your fibroids are, we may first recommend short-term hormonal therapy that helps to shrink them. That therapy may be sufficient to allow you to be more comfortable.
Smaller fibroids are less likely to impair your fertility. We may also recommend hormonal therapy before you undergo surgery, to help make the fibroids easier to remove.
Mechanical means of removing fibroids include:
- Laparoscopic myomectomy through the abdomen
- Hysteroscopic myomectomy through the vagina
- Focused ultrasound surgery
Some procedures that remove fibroids aren’t appropriate if you hope to become pregnant. These include endometrial ablation, which destroys the uterine lining; uterine artery embolization, which cuts off blood supply to the fibroids; and hysterectomy, which removes the uterus.
If your fibroids impair your quality of life or fertility, contact us for relief today. You can reach us at Mian OB/GYN & Associates by phone or through our online booking form.