According to the National Uterine Fibroids Foundation, each year more than 600,000 hysterectomies are performed with nearly half of these attributed to uterine fibroids. Statistics have shown uterine fibroids may impact up to 20 percent of the female population at any given moment. While nearly 80 percent of all women suffer from uterine fibroids at some point in their lives, most will not suffer from symptoms. Of the few women who do suffer from pain associated with uterine fibroids, the decision to undergo treatment, including surgery, can be quite complicated and emotional. Understanding the origin of uterine fibroids, symptoms associated with the uterine fibroid condition and the treatment options available, will ensure women are better equipped to make potential life changing health decisions.
Uterine fibroids are considered a non-cancerous tumor, comprised of muscle and fibrous tissue, which grow out from the musculature of the uterine wall. Common in women prior to menopause, the uterine fibroid can be quite painful. For women who reach menopause, uterine fibroids are generally not a concern as the lack of hormone production prevents fibroids from developing, or shrinks fibroids already present.
Most women are alerted to the presence of uterine fibroids with the onset of severe pelvic pain and heavy menstrual bleeding attributed to the growth of the fibroid. The pain associated with the uterine fibroid is, generally, attributed to the pressure the fibroid may place on various other organs as the uterine wall expands to allow for the growth of the fibroid. With an onset of pain, and heavy menstrual cycles, women most often seek out the medical attention of a gynecologist. To diagnose a uterine fibroid, the gynecologist may perform a variety of diagnostic tests including and MRI, trans-vaginal sonogram and even a biopsy of the tissue. For some women, the recommendation of an endometrial biopsy may be appropriate to determine the presence of endometrial cancer. What is important to note is in the cases of uterine fibroids, less than one percent are diagnosed as an endometrial cancer.
When diagnosed with uterine fibroids, the next major step will be determining the course of treatment. Most often, the gynecologist’s primary concern, in treating uterine fibroids, lies in the control of heavy menstrual cycles so as to prevent the onset of other health related conditions such as anemia. As a first line of treatment, the gynecologist may recommend over the counter medications, such as ibuprofen, and hormone therapy, generally implying the use of birth control pills. When these treatment measures are not effective, the gynecologist may recommend performing a minor surgical procedure known as a D & C, Dilation and Currettage. D & C procedures are performed under local anesthesia, on an outpatient basis and involve minor repair of the uterine wall so as to prevent an onset of future heavy menstrual cycles.
Unfortunately, in severe cases of uterine fibroids, when medications and the surgical D & C are unsuccessful, the gynecologist may recommend a variety of surgical procedures including myomectomy, the removal of the fibroid or a UFE, also known as a uterine fibroid emobolization, which involves injecting the fibroid with chemicals to prevent the continued blood supply and, therefore, stump the growth of the fibroid. Either of these surgical options is feasible but, when unsuccessful, your gynecologist may recommend a partial or full hysterectomy. For women seeking to have children in the future, want to continue a healthy libido or those that want to naturally treat the uterine fibroids, a hysterectomy should be a carefully weighed decision.
For women, the monthly menstrual cycle can identify key health issues. When menstrual cycles are abnormal, resulting in heavy bleeding and significant pain, consulting a gynecologist regarding the possibility of uterine fibroids. With the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, the uterine fibroid can be treated thereby reducing the possibility of gynecological surgery such as a hysterectomy.