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Fibroid Factbook: Everything You Need To Know About Uterine Fibroids

December 3, 2020

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumours of the uterus – that right there is enough to make anyone stop in their tracks and pivot. But if you know a thing or two about uterine fibroids, you’ll know that they’re not as dangerous as they sound. If you aren’t as well acquainted with uterine fibroids as you’d like, this nifty article should serve to shine a spotlight on the condition.

Understanding Uterine Fibroids

As noncancerous growths, uterine fibroids tend to appear during a woman’s childbearing years, but usually pose no additional risk of uterine cancer, almost never becoming malignant. They vary in size, ranging from microscopic seedling-sized tumours to weighty outgrowths capable of disfiguring the uterus. While some women develop just a single fibroid, others develop a cluster.

Uterine fibroids are fairly common, but the majority of women never learn of them due to an absence of symptoms. And although fibroids aren’t classically dangerous, they can lead to discomfort and anaemia triggered by heavy menstrual bleeding.

Causes of Uterine Fibroids

Experts haven’t uncovered the exact cause behind uterine fibroids, but clinical studies have pointed to factors that could serve as influences.

Genetic Differentiation

Fibroids often house genes that are genetically distinct from the quality and character of normal muscle cells within the uterus.

Hormonal Influences

Fibroids are thought to be linked to the production of oestrogen and progesterone, the two chief female hormones. This is because fibroids are composed of a greater number of oestrogen and progesterone receptors than classic uterine cells. Naturally, the occurrence and impact of fibroids reduce after menopause, thanks to a decrease in hormone production.

Congenital Traits

It’s likely that you’ll develop fibroids if your sister or mother had a definitive diagnosis.

Environmental Influences

If you experienced menarche early, are currently using birth control pills, are obese, have a vitamin D deficiency or consume alcohol, you’re likely giving fibroids a better shot at making an appearance. Fibroids exhibit varied growth patterns – some grow rapidly, while others stop growing early on.

Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids

Many women with fibroids are asymptomatic, meaning that they display no visible symptoms. In women that are touched by symptoms, these vary in severity depending on the location, count and size of the fibroids.

The most common symptoms of fibroids include:

  • Excessive menstrual flow
  • Menstrual period lasting longer than one week
  • Pain or pressure in the pelvis
  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty in effectively evacuating the bladder
  • Constipation
  • Leg cramps or backache

In rare cases, a fibroid may give rise to chronic pain when its blood requirement exceeds the blood supply available, causing it to die. If you experience severe pelvic pain, extremely heavy or prolonged periods, difficulty urinating or spotting between your menstrual cycles, you must schedule an appointment with your doctor on an immediate basis.

Treatment of Uterine Fibroids

There is little scientific proof on how uterine fibroids can be prevented, and although there is a general acceptance that their prevention may not be possible, it must be noted that only a tiny proportion of cases actually warrant treatment. There isn’t a blanket treatment plan that exists for uterine fibroids. A surgical or medical path may be suggested based on your specific symptoms, their severity, and their impact on your life. In general, the following treatment paths may be considered.

Expectant Management

Otherwise known as watchful waiting, this path is best suited for women who display little or no symptoms. Being non-cancerous and generally presenting no obstacles to pregnancy, fibroids tend to recede on their own upon menopause.

Medication Plan

A number of medication plans exist for fibroids, many of them pointed at regulating your menstrual cycle, managing excessive menstrual bleeding and minimising pelvic pain. While medications do not eradicate fibroids, they may play a role in diminishing them.

Non-invasive Surgery

Performed via ultrasound, an array of non-invasive surgical techniques exist for the removal of uterine fibroids.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

Surgery is a more definitive treatment. Surgery can involve only removal of the fibroid (myomectomy) or removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) depending on age and reproductive status of the women. It can be done either by a large incision in the abdomen to access the uterus or laparoscopically, using a few small incisions into which surgical tools and a camera are inserted. Advantages of laparoscopic procedure are lesser painful, faster recovery, cosmesis, lesser post op adhesions and hence better preservation of fertility.

If the fibroids are bulging inside the cavity, they can be removed hysteroscopy. In a hysteroscopy, the camera and surgical tools are inserted through the natural birth passage and hence there are no incisions on the abdomen.

Traditional Surgery

A hysterectomy or abdominal myomectomy may be the only option when a uterus hosts multiple fibroids. However, while scarring from a myomectomy can affect future fertility, a hysterectomy or the removal of the uterus is a major surgery that is usually proposed once a woman has finished having children.

If you do have symptoms of uterine fibroids, you may want to have an ultrasound performed to clear your suspicions. And while your condition may be mild enough to be managed expectantly, it’s always worth seeking a medical opinion when it comes to something as precious as your womb.

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