When to Seek Treatment for Uterine Fibroids?
Even though uterine fibroids are extremely common— three out of four women will get one or more during her lifetime—it’s not a popular topic in the longer list of women’s health issues. Although experts say these masses that develop in the uterus aren’t dangerous, they may require treatment and possibly even removal.
Let’s take a quick look at what these fibroids are and when you should be concerned.
Dr. Jimmy Ruiz, an OB/GYN specialist at Abington Hospital - Jefferson Health, offers some clarification. “Uterine fibroids are benign growths of smooth muscle tissue. These growths do not develop into cancer, however, cancerous growths can be mistaken for fibroids. As a result, evaluation by a trained medical profession is necessary.”
While the causes of uterine fibroids are unknown, there are a few risk factors that might make some women have a greater chance of developing them than others, such as race, obesity, family history, and certain hormone changes.
One major concern among women is whether or not fibroids can make it difficult for them to become pregnant. Although Dr. Ruiz says fibroids typically don’t make it difficult to conceive, they may complicate pregnancy by potentially causing miscarriage, preterm labor, or the fetus being in the wrong position in the womb.
In addition to these potential complications, uterine fibroids can sometimes cause unpleasant symptoms, such as frequent urination, constipation, backache, leg pains, prolonged menstrual periods, and difficulty emptying your bladder.
So when should you seek out treatment?
“Women should consider treatment when uterine fibroids are associated with heavy menstrual bleeding, persistent pelvic pain or pressure, or recurrent miscarriage,” said Dr. Ruiz.
During these cases, you have a few different treatment options:
Medication: Your doctor may suggest a medicine that lowers estrogen levels in order to decrease the size of the fibroid or prevent it from growing. This is often prescribed for women who are planning on having surgery to remove the fibroids.
Radiologic Procedures: Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a procedure performed by a radiologist that is often done to shrink or get rid of the masses. It works by blocking the blood flow to the fibroids, which rely on blood for nutrients to help them grow.
Surgery: If you decide to undergo surgery, you can either opt for a myomectomy or a hysterectomy. If you plan on having children, a myomectomy is your only surgical option, as only the fibroids will be removed during this procedure. Since hysterectomies call for the entire uterus to be removed, it’s usually only performed on women who are either experiencing severe symptoms, are not planning to conceive, or have already reached menopause.