Thousands of treatments for uterine fibroids are conducted each year. This medical problem is most often seen in women aged 35 to 50 years old. Historically, the primary treatment conducted for uterine fibroids has been to remove the uterus through hysterectomy surgery. Fortunately, this is no longer the norm. As much as possible, we prepare conservative treatments for the management of this condition.
What are Fibroids?
Also called leiomyomas or myomas, uterine fibroids are growths of various sizes and shapes that adhere to the lining of the uterus. Fibroids may grow on the internal muscular structure, or they may adhere to the outside of the uterus. These growths are not shed during menstruation because a “stem” attaches them to the tissue of the uterus. Some fibroids grow to be quite large, while others may stagnate when they are still small.
Causes of Fibroids
Research has yet to identify an exact cause of uterine fibroids. However, studies have found that most fibroid tumors develop within muscle tissue that contains some type of abnormality. Furthermore, there is an association between estrogen levels and fibroid development. This is evident in data that suggests women approaching menopause have a higher risk for fibroid growth due to elongated periods of high estrogen. Obesity is also a risk factor, though there is no clear data which demonstrates why; only that there is a link between the two conditions. Lastly, women of African American descent also seem to have a higher risk for fibroids.
Can fibroids turn into cancer?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, it is very rare for a fibroid to be cancerous. Also, this type of cancerous growth, leiomyosarcoma, is not believed to form from an existing fibroid. Most uterine fibroids are benign and will not advance to cancer.
Do fibroids prevent pregnancy?
The presence of fibroid growths along the uterine lining may not prevent pregnancy. However, there is a chance that, if numerous fibroids exist, the fertilized egg will have difficulty becoming implanted in the uterus. The key factor in understanding the likelihood of fertility problems associated with fibroids is location of these growths.
Fibroids and Pregnancy
In most cases, fibroids will not affect fetal development, a healthy pregnancy, and a successful labor and delivery. In the same manner as fertility, fibroids’ effect on pregnancy centers around the location and size of growths. Women with a high risk for fibroids may benefit from diagnostic imaging during family planning. We may monitor women more closely during pregnancy, depending on the characteristics of growths.
Fibroid Surgical Treatment
Surgical treatments for uterine fibroids include:
- Minimally-invasive uterine artery embolization:
This procedure is conducted through tiny incisions in the abdomen by an Interventional radiologist. The objective of treatment is to cut off the circulation of blood to individual fibroids, thus causing them to shrink.
A myomectomy is a surgical procedure through which fibroids are removed, but the uterus is not disturbed. Myomectomy may be a preferred treatment for women who wish to become pregnant in the future.
Blunting blood supply to fibroids, as well as removing individual growths, does not prevent the development of new benign tumors.
A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus. This may be necessary in cases of severe symptomology related to uterine fibroids, such as excessive bleeding. Hysterectomy is generally considered a “final stop” fibroid treatment, considered after conservative treatments have failed to attain the primary objective. This is because a woman’s reproductive function ends when the uterus is removed.
Natural Fibroid Treatment
Non-surgical therapies are often the first-line defense against fibroids. We may recommend one of the following treatments:
- Hormonal birth control pills may improve comfort and diminish menstrual flow.
- Progestin-releasing IUD, intrauterine device, may be appropriate for the management of menstrual symptoms.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists may be prescribed for short-term use prior to direct fibroid treatment.
- Ultrasound guided by magnetic resonance imaging may be performed to disintegrate fibroids.
- Endometrial ablation techniques have been developed to remove the uterine lining in which fibroids may be embedded.
- Hysteroscopy may be used as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool to observe internal uterine fibroids, and to treat them with laser or electrical energy.
Schedule a Consultation
At Boro Park OB/GYN we monitor fibroids closely and provide treatment if necessary. We also schedule a follow-up visit every 6 months to ensure that the fibroids do not grow and present a danger to your health.