Fibroid Facts

Uterine Fibroids. You have them (or had them), but what do you really know about them? I’m about to drop some science. Literally.

Here is some useful information to help you through. Please visit the referenced sites at the bottom of this page for more detailed information.*

Uterine fibroids (uterine leiomyomas) – tumors or lumps made of muscle cells and other tissue that grow within the wall of the uterus. Fibroids may grow as a single tumor or in clusters.

A single fibroid can be less than one inch in size or can grow to eight inches across or more. A bunch or cluster of fibroids can also vary in size. Fibroids can be present but not symptomatic in many women. The average affected uterus has six to seven fibroids.

Fibroids are not associated with cancer and do not increase the risk of getting uterine cancer. However, they can cause other problems. The most common symptoms are heavy bleeding during  period, anemia, abdominal pain or pressure, incontinence (can’t hold your pee), and constipation. Other symptoms include painful periods, bleeding between periods, a feeling of “fullness” in the lower abdomen ( doctors will usually say “pelvic pressure”), frequent urination, pain during intercourse, and lower back pain. Fibroids can also cause reproductive problems including infertility, miscarriages, and early labor.

No one is sure why women develop fibroids.  There is a possible link between uterine fibroid tumors and estrogen production.  There are a number of theories, but none explains fibroids completely. Most likely, fibroids are the end result of many factors interacting with each other. These factors could be genetic, hormonal, environmental, or a combination of all three. There is evidence that estrogen promotes fibroid.  Fibroids have higher estrogen concentrations, bind more estrogen, have more estrogen receptors, and convert estradiol (a more active form of estrogen) to estrone (a less active form of estrogen) more slowly than normal myometrium (uterine muscle wall).

 

uterus2

It is possible that as many as 80% of all women have uterine fibroids. Many women have no symptoms. About 1 in 4 end up with symptoms severe enough to require treatment. Fibroids grow in women of childbearing age, but because some women show no symptoms of fibroids, as many as 77% of women of childbearing age could have fibroids and not know it.

 

There are 4 types of fibroids:

  • Submucosal [sub-myou-co-sul] fibroids grow just underneath the uterine lining.
  • Intramural [ in-tra-myur-ul] fibroids grow in between the muscles of the uterus.
  • Subserosal [ sub-sir-oh-sul[ fibroids grow on the outside of the uterus.
  • Pedunculated  (also called peduncles) [ ped-uncles] fibroids grow on stalks that grow out from the surface of the uterus, or into the cavity of the uterus.

fibroid-types

Uterine fibroids can be treated with surgery.

Hysterectomy– Removes the entire uterus, sometimes the cervix and/or ovaries and fallopian tubes are also removed. There are three types of hysterectomies:  Supracervical Hysterectomy, Total Hysterectomy, and Total Abdominal Hysterectomy.

Myomectomy– Removes the fibroids but leaves the uterus. The three types of Myomectomy techniques that can be used depending on the doctor and the fibroids: Vaginal Myomectomy, Laparoscopic Myomectomy, and Abdominal (open) Myomectomy. There are also some hybrid techniques that combine laparoscopic and open techniques. (my procedure was done this way)

 Both are major surgeries.

There is also Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UAE or UFE) cuts off fibroids’ blood supply and causes them to degenerate. It basiclly starves the fibroid

Embolization is NOT recommended for those women who plan to have children

There are several non-surgical approaches, such as focused ultrasound surgery (FUS), hormone therapies and IUD implants.

 

Researchers have identified  several risk factors for uterine fibroids.

•Current statistics place African-American women at three-to-five times greater risk than white women for fibroids.

•Women who are overweight or obese for their height (based on body mass index or BMI*) are also at slightly higher risk for fibroids than women who are average weight for their height.

•Women who have given birth appear to be at lower risk for uterine fibroids.

 

For more information on fibroids, possible causes, research, advocacy and treatments, please visit these sites.

*The information and images on this page were compiled from information on the following sites.

Center for Uterine Fibroids  http://www.fibroids.net/

National Women’s Health Network   http://nwhn.org/fibroids

National Institutes for health (NIH)   http://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/viewfactsheet.aspx?csid=50

National Uterine Fibroid Foundation (NUFF)  http://www.nuff.org/

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