Medical researchers estimate that as many as 80% of all women will develop fibroids, a kind of muscular tumor that develops within the walls of the uterus, by the age of 50. While the vast majority of uterine fibroids are benign, or noncancerous, nonmalignant fibroids can still cause bothersome symptoms, including pelvic pressure, painful periods, or heavy menstrual cycles.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths on the uterine wall. Also known as myomas, they usually emerge during a woman’s childbearing years and are most often diagnosed in women who are in their 40s or early 50s. Fibroids can be so small they’re virtually undetectable, or so large that they actually distend the uterus. In severe cases involving multiple large fibroids, a woman’s uterus may expand upward as far as her rib cage.
Fortunately, fibroids almost never develop into cancer, and they aren’t linked to an increased risk of uterine cancer.
Most women who have fibroids don’t experience symptoms and may not even know that such growths exist. Not all women are so lucky, however; depending on the size, location, and number of fibroids that are present, women may experience any of the following symptoms:
Fibroids are often found during a routine pelvic exam. If your gynecologist at Women’s Healthcare of Princeton can feel a fibroid with their fingers, they may perform imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis. This is usually accomplished with an ultrasound. If ultrasound imaging doesn’t reveal enough information, you may undergo either a hysteroscopy or a laparoscopy procedure to examine any potential fibroid masses.
If you have small fibroids or fibroids that don’t cause disruptive symptoms, you probably don’t need to seek treatment. Likewise, if you’re approaching menopause and you have fibroids, you may be able to use a wait-and-see approach, as fibroids usually shrink during menopause.
Treatment can be very beneficial for women with large fibroids that cause significant symptoms, or for women who want to avoid complications with future pregnancies.
A myomectomy is a surgical procedure that flushes fibroids while leaving the uterus in place. This treatment is often the best option for women with significant fibroids who want to become pregnant.
Birth control pills and other forms of hormonal medications can help reduce pelvic pain and heavy periods for women who aren’t planning to become pregnant. Having a hysterectomy, or removing your uterus, is the only way to completely cure an ongoing fibroid problem.
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