What are uterine fibroids?
They are non-cancerous growths arising from the muscular wall of the womb. It is one of the most common gynecological conditions and is estimated to be present in about 20-30% of women.
Most fibroids grow within the wall of the uterus. They can be classified into the following:
- Submucosal fibroids grow inside the cavity of the womb.
- Intramural fibroids grow within the wall of the womb.
- Subserosal fibroids grow on the outside of the uterus.
Some women may not experience any symptoms. However, fibroids can cause a number of symptoms depending on the size and location.
The usual symptoms include:
Heavy bleeding or painful periods
Bleeding in between periods
Feeling "full" in the lower abdomen-sometimes called "pelvic pressure"
Lower back pain
Difficulty to conceive and repeated miscarriages
Uterine fibroids can be diagnosed by pelvic exam and also by ultrasound scans.
The treatment depends on the women's age, desire for further childbearing, size of the fibroids, her symptoms and the severity.
If a woman has uterine fibroids but has not display any symptoms, she may not need any treatment. However a regular check up is required to monitor the fibroid sizes. Fibroids are hormone-dependant and hence usually decrease in size after menopause.
Certain hormonal medications can reduce the bleeding during menses. Other drugs such as GnRh-analogues can be used temporarily for symptom relief or to reduce the size of the fibroid before surgery. Mirena coil can also be used to reduce bleeding during menses.
Fibroids that are giving rise to severe symptoms, are big or growing in size, may need surgical treatment.
Surgical methods involve removing the fibroids (myomectomy) or the entire uterus (hysterectomy). Both procedures can be performed by conventional open surgery as well as by laparoscopic surgery; if deemed suitable.
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