The diagnosis of fibroids can feel like a scary experience, which is why Central Maine Healthcare is committed to ensuring you’re supported throughout the entire process. Whether your doctor discovered a fibroid during a routine pelvic exam or you’ve got many of the symptoms, we’ll help to get the right diagnosis and work with you to design the best treatment.
We offer excellent care combined with the latest technology, ensuring that you’ll get the best results possible. Our gynecologists are highly-skilled, compassionate caregivers that will guide you through the process and help you get back to healthy, pain-free living.
If you’re not sure what fibroids are, you’re not alone. Fibroids are small to large non-cancerous tumors that grow in the tissue of the uterus. They can grow in the walls of the uterus, on the inside of the uterus, and even on the outside. About 20-50% of women in the US have at least one fibroid, making them a relatively common condition. Not every fibroid is diagnosed and sometimes they don’t cause problems. Only about a third of these fibroids are big enough that they’re found by a doctor during an exam.
You might breathe a little easier to learn that fibroids aren’t associated with a higher risk of uterine cancer. Though they aren’t cancerous most of the time, there is the very rare case in which they are cancerous. So, it’s a good idea to see a doctor about yours to make sure you’re cared for correctly. Researchers aren’t quite certain what causes fibroids but are pretty sure that the high levels of estrogen in the uterus is the reason they can grow so quickly and get so large.
Risk and Protective Factors
Certain women are at higher risk for fibroids. Those entering or already going through menopause have elevated levels of estrogen, which makes them more likely to get fibroids. Other risk factors include obesity. Giving birth to children seems to have a protective effect on women, or at least is correlated to a decreased chance of fibroids. If you’ve got at least 2 children that you’ve given birth to, your risk for fibroids is cut in half.
Symptoms of Fibroids
Often, women with fibroids won’t have any symptoms. Many others will have a variety of symptoms, with no two women having the exact same experience of how the fibroids make them feel. Here are a few of the most commonly reported symptoms, however.
Common symptoms of fibroids:
- Extra heavy periods or periods that go on for 7 or more days
- Strange bleeding in between your periods
- Pain in your pelvis
- Needing to urinate often
- Pain in your lower back
- Painful intercourse
- A mass that can be felt by your doctor
- Anemia, caused by the heavy bleeding
Diagnosis of Fibroids
Typically, women discover that they’ve got a fibroid when they go in for their routine health exam. A doctor can feel the solid mass through the abdomen, which then will require more testing for a true diagnosis. After discovering the lump, your doctor will offer other kinds of diagnostic methods including:
- X-ray: This will help to create an image of your pelvis to see if the fibroid is detectable.
- Transvaginal ultrasound: This ultrasound is done through the vagina and creates a more detailed picture of the fibroid inside the pelvis.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): For harder-to-see fibroids, an MRI can produce a finely detailed picture of the pelvic area, including details about the fibroid’s location and mass size.
- Hysterosalpingography: This is a special x-ray where we use dye to check for any blockages in your fallopian tubes.
- Hysteroscopy: An instrument is inserted into the vagina that allows the physician to look around in the uterus to visually check for fibroids.
- Endometrial biopsy: This test involves a sample of the lining of the uterus to test for abnormal cells that could indicate fibroids.
Blood test: Your doctor will possibly take a blood sample to check you for anemia, which will help to test for fibroids as well as determine whether you will need to get help for your overall health, as well.
Treatment of Fibroids
The great news is that many fibroids tend to stop growing and even shrink when a woman gets closer to menopause. So, sometimes you may not need to do anything at all about your fibroids if they aren’t causing you physical pain or any other issues. For those fibroids that are causing problems, there are a variety of possibilities for treatment.
Treatment options include:
- Pain medicine: Over-the-counter painkillers (Advil, Aleve) can provide significant relief, and if you need more pain relief your doctor can help you find additional options.
- Surgery: For those who would like to conceive or who prefer a more conservative surgical approach, your doctor can carefully remove the fibroids from the uterus tissue. In cases where this isn’t enough, a hysterectomy might be the best course of action.
- Hormone-blocking therapy: Since certain hormones can encourage the fibroids to grow, this medicine helps to reduce those hormones and stop the fibroid in its tracks.
- Uterine artery embolization: This newer treatment option finds the arteries that are providing blood to the fibroid, then they block that artery, so the fibroid can’t receive nutrients or oxygen. This causes it to stop growing and even shrink.