Fibroids are the most commonly seen tumours in the female reproductive system. These are also known as Uterine Myomas or fibromas and are tough compact tumours made out of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue found in the uterus.
Fibroids are fairly common with 20 to 50 per cent of women in the childbearing age, though quite often these remain undiagnosed. In fact, it is said that up to 77 per cent of women will indeed develop fibroids sometime during their childbearing years and around one-third of these fibroids are large enough to be detected during a physical examination.
In 99 per cent of fibroid cases the tumours are non-cancerous and do not increase a woman’s risk for uterine cancer.
Some women may have mild symptoms while others might have severe pain and there are those with fibroids who do not display any symptoms at all. In short, different women might experience symptoms differently. Yet some of the common symptoms are as follows:
Heavy menstrual bleeding
Pelvic pain (caused when a tumour inadvertently pressurizes the pelvic organs)
Lower back pain
Uterine fibroid is often form a solid mass located near the middle of the pelvis and hence can be physically felt by the physician.
The most commonly known cause for fibroids is the formation of tumour from a rogue muscle cell in the uterus. This cell multiplies rapidly under the influence of oestrogen and from a single cell, which develops into a tumour.
The women who are at risk towards developing uterine tumours are those who are obese and approaching menopause.
Fibroids can be detected even during a routine pelvic examination, though now with the advent of technology, sophisticated scans like the transvaginal ultrasound and hysteroscopy can be performed to ascertain the presence of a fibroid.
The various treatment methods for fibroids are:
Hysterectomy – This involves the surgical removal of the entire uterus.
Surgical Therapy – This procedure is called a myomectomy which involves only the removal of the fibroid, leaving the uterus intact to allow for future pregnancies.
Gonadotropin – Releasing hormone agonist (GnRH agonists) – In this case levels of oestrogen are artificially lowered to shrink the fibroid and make surgical treatment easy.
Anti-hormonal Agents – Certain drugs counter the production of oestrogen and thus are effective in treating fibroids.
Uterine Artery Embolization – The Uterine Artery Embolization or UAE is a minimally invasive technique. Here the arteries supplying blood to the fibroids are identified and then blocked off or embolized.
Also before deciding on a kind of treatment, the doctor looks into certain key factors such as one’s overall health and medical history, the extent of the disease and the tolerance for specific medications. The patient’s expectation with regard to the course of the disease and the opinion and preference of the patient is also considered. Finally, the desire for future pregnancies is also an important factor that is taken into consideration while deciding the type of fibroid removal procedure.
When the pelvic pain is only occasional, anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers are also prescribed, in a bid to avoid unnecessary surgery. Surgical intervention is considered only when other options have been explored and eliminated.