What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are muscular tumors that grow on the wall of the uterus. These growths are almost always benign and not associated with cancer. Fibroids can range in both number and size; a single tumor or multiple tumors can develop, and they can be as small as an apple seed or as large as a grapefruit.
What are the symptoms?
Often, fibroids will not cause any symptoms. But if symptoms do develop, you may experience:
- A feeling of fullness in the pelvic area (the lower part of the stomach)
- Heavy bleeding (heavy enough to cause anemia)
- Painful periods
- Painful intercourse
- An enlargement of the lower abdomen
- Frequent urination
- Lower back pain
- Complications during pregnancy and labor (increases the risk of cesarean section)
What are the causes?
The exact cause is not known at this time, but there are a few common factors among patients with fibroids. These factors include:
- Genetic (fibroids usually run in families)
- Hormonal (affected by your estrogen and progesterone levels)
Since the cause is unknown, researchers are also unaware of what causes them to shrink and grow. However, we do know that your hormone levels can control the tumors. During pregnancy, when hormone levels are high, fibroids will grow rapidly. When anti-hormone medication is taken, the tumors shrink. Once a woman reaches menopause, fibroids will stop growing and shrink.
Can fibroids turn into cancer?
The chances of a fibroid being cancerous are less than 1 in 1,000. A cancerous fibroid, known as leiomyosarcoma, is not thought to arise from an already-existing fibroid. A fibroid does not increase the risk of developing a cancerous one, nor does it increase your chances of getting other forms of cancer.
How are fibroids treated?
Treatments are usually provided to those who experience symptoms, especially painful ones. We encourage you to discuss treatments with Dr. Antonini, as your age, the location and size of the fibroids, and your desire to get pregnant in the future can all determine the right option for you. Two of the most common treatment options are medication and surgery.
Over-the-counter pain medication can be taken to relieve some of the pain you experience, and low-dose birth can help to control abnormal bleeding. Other prescription drugs specifically treat fibroids, but we encourage you to discuss that option with Dr. Antonini.
If your symptoms are moderate or severe, surgery may be the best way to treat them. Myomectomy is a surgery that removes fibroids while keeping the healthy tissue of the uterus intact. This is the best option for women who wish to have children or keep their uterus. A hysterectomy is a surgery to remove the entire uterus. It is the only way to cure uterine fibroids for certain. This surgery is usually performed if a woman’s fibroids are large, if there is heavy bleeding, she is near or past menopause, or does not want to get pregnant.
Request an appointment in Austin, Texas
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment at Central Texas Urogynecology & Continence Center. When you come in for your appointment, we will treat you with the compassion you deserve, and we will identify the cause of your symptoms.