Uterine fibroids are growths on the uterus that are not related to cancer. Fibroids range in size from the very small, invisible to the human eye, to large, capable of distorting the uterus. They are not associated with the risk of cervical cancer. However, they may negatively impact fertility and pregnancy; therefore they should not be left untreated.
Who Is More Likely to Develop Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids have several causes and risk factors. Starting with the risk factors, these are:
- Race – Black women are more likely to develop uterine fibroids than any other races
- Heredity – women whose mothers and sisters suffer from uterine fibroids are predisposed to develop this condition, as well
- Early onset of menstruation
- Vitamin D deficiency.
As for the causes of uterine fibroids outside these risk factors, doctors believe that genetics and hormones play a key role. They noticed that fibroids tend to shrink after menopause, thus, the lower level of estrogen and progesterone are linked to their involution.
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
Women who have uterine fibroids usually experience heavy and painful menstruations, as well as menstrual periods that last more than 7 days. Other frequent symptoms are:
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Frequent urination
- Inability to empty the bladder completely
Types of Treatments of Uterine Fibroids
Traditionally, uterine fibroids were treated with a combination of hormone-based oral medication, including contraceptives. In some cases, an intrauterine device would be inserted to release progestin locally. However, hormonal drugs have many negative side effects, such as hot flashes and reduced bone density. Moreover, some of these drugs treat the symptoms, but do not reduce the size of the uterine fibroids.
In other cases, the patients received nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which relieve pain, but do not reduce the menstrual blood flow.
Fortunately, new and modern treatment for uterine fibroids exists. Their aim is to eliminate uterine fibroids, not just provide relief for the symptoms. They are categorized in two types:
- Non-invasive Procedure
The non-invasive procedure for eliminating uterine fibroids is the MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery. While the patient is placed inside a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner, the doctor uses an ultrasound transducer, focusing the sound waves directly towards the fibroids. The transducer generates heat that destroys the fibroid tissue.
- Minimally Invasive Procedures
The MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery is a very new technique, and not many doctors master it. However, you will find many healthcare facilities offering effective and well-known minimally invasive procedures, such as:
Uterine artery embolization – small particles are injected into the arteries supplying blood to the uterus. They cut off blood flow to the fibroids and they will shrink and die.
Radiofrequency ablation – this procedure requires laparoscopic surgery (a very small incision). The doctor will use a specialized device to insert several tiny needles into the fibroid. These needles will heat up the fibroid and destroy it.
Endometrial ablation – the doctor introduces a specialized instrument into the uterus which emits heat, microwave energy or electric current (at safe levels for the patient) to destroy the lining of the uterus. This procedure will effectively cancel any possibility of getting pregnant, thus it is recommended only in extreme cases.