Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that grow in or on the uterus, often during childbearing years. They are also referred to as uterine leiomyomas, or myomas, and are normally harmless. However, painful symptoms are what drive women to see their health care provider.
“Fibroids are very common, occurring in 60-70% of women at any point in their lifetime,” shares Tracy Griffith, MD, one of our OB/GYNs in our Toledo, OH market. “It is currently the most common indication for hysterectomy in the United States. Treatment options have typically been limited to medication or invasive surgery, and they are a frustrating problem for both patients as well as clinicians.”
What causes fibroids?
The reason that fibroids develop remains unclear. However, clinical research indicates that fibroids are controlled by the hormone’s estrogen and progesterone. There may be a hereditary component as well, as they tend to run in families and are more common in certain ethnic groups such as black women.
The most important thing to remember is that fibroids are very common and are not associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer. In fact, they almost never develop into cancer.
What are symptoms of fibroids?
While fibroids are often harmless, they become a problem when painful symptoms occur.
While symptoms for fibroids can be extremely diverse and are often chalked up to period pain, here are a few symptoms to look for:
- Extreme periods
- Stomach and pelvic pain
- Leg and back pain
- Stomach swelling and bloating
- Pain during sex
- Digestive issues
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty getting pregnant
How are fibroids diagnosed?
Sometimes, your health care provider can feel a fibroid during a standard pelvic exam. Typically, as part of a workup for abnormal bleeding or pelvic pain, your provider may request a pelvic ultrasound or a more specialized test like an MRI.
“Both of these options help identify the size and location of the fibroids,” says Dr. Griffith.
How are fibroids treated?
The threshold for treatment is when symptoms start to interfere with symptoms of daily activity. Thus, if fibroids are asymptomatic, they don’t necessarily require treatment.
For those women who are having symptoms, treatment options can range depending on each patients’ unique needs. Treatment can include medication or surgery.
A new procedure that we’re offering at Mercy Health, depending on the individual’s symptoms, is called Acessa. With Acessa (pictured above), we utilize a laparoscopic ultrasound probe and radiofrequency ablation to destroy fibroid tissue by applying controlled heat energy through a small needle. The destroyed fibroid tissue changes consistency and shrinks over time.
“Acessa is such an excellent option for patients because it gives them the ability to have a very effective surgical procedure, with minimal recovery time and a very fast return to their daily activities,” Dr. Griffith shares. “Previous surgical treatments for fibroids have either required a large incision, or they have been associated with a very painful recovery requiring hospitalization. The ability to have more options to offer patients is very exciting.”
Learn more about the women’s health services we offer at Mercy Health.