Fibroids are growths that occur in the uterus. They are not cancerous and do not pose the risk of becoming cancer. They develop from the muscular tissue within the uterus. There is no standard speed at which they grow. For some women, they grow quickly while for others the process is slow. Some will last for a long time and cause complications while others pose almost no risk and disappear after a short period. They can range in size from small to large with some being almost undetectable and others being large enough to distort the size and shape of the uterus.
Fibroids are common during the child-bearing years of adulthood in many women. Three out of four women will develop fibroids at some point in their lives and most will have almost no idea that they have them. Uterine fibroids typically will appear during pregnancy and dissolve once pregnancy is over and the uterus returns back to its normal size. Fibroids often occur as a result of an increase in hormones. Estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that seem to stimulate fibroid growth.
Common symptoms of fibroids vary because for many women no symptoms occur. Heavy menstrual bleeding is one of the most common indications that a woman has fibroids as well as prolonged menstrual periods. Pelvic pain can also occur if a fibroid becomes too large in size. Another rare complication associated with fibroids is infertility. If the fibroids become too large, infertility can occur.
When the symptoms of fibroids become so sever that they begin to interfere with a woman’s life, sometimes it may be necessary to seek treatment. There are medications available that block the productions of certain hormones associated with fibroid growth. There are also medications that can help to slow the heavy bleeding that is associated with uterine fibroids.
When medications fail, it may be necessary to undergo surgery. There a few types of surgery that can be effective in removing fibroids. One procedure that has gained attention is surgery with a power morcellator. A morcellator is a device that makes a small incision in pelvic area and then enters the body and minces up the fibroids. The pieces of the fibroids are then removed.
Morcellation allows for smaller incisions to be made but does pose some significant risks. An undetectable cancer known as uterine sarcoma may be present in women undergoing uterine fibroid removal surgery. If this is the case, and all of the cancerous cells are not removed, one possible side effect is for the cancer to spread, causing significantly greater risk of death. There is more information available at the Uterine Fibroid Removal Side Effects Page.
There are other forms of surgery available as well. A procedure known as a uterine artery embolization can be performed. This involves making a small incision in an artery and using a catheter to restrict blood flow to the fibroids. By doing this, the fibroid does not receive any blood and shrivels up. This causes the fibroid to stop growing and can reduce many of the symptoms associated with fibroids.
When neither of those procedures are preferred, it is possible to undergo a hysterectomy. This is a full removal of the uterus. This is a more drastic alternative if the woman receiving the surgery eventually wants to have children. For many women that are entering the early stages of menopause, this is not a concern.