Often uterine fibroids are asymptomatic, but they can also cause heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and frequent urination. Women experiencing these symptoms should seek medical intervention to avoid complications. At Today's Woman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, board certified OB/GYN Dr. Sharan Abdul-Rahman has extensive experience in diagnosing and treating uterine fibroids.
There used to be a time when the only option for symptomatic fibroids was hysterectomy. Many of our mothers and older female relatives have had hysterectomies for this reason. Times have changed.
Today, treatment options include:
There is still much to understand about how and why fibroid develop. As we learn more about the pathophysiology of fibroids, the treatment options will change. The near future holds the possibility for more non-surgical options including medications will be able to "shrink" the fibroids before they become large and symptomatic.
These are exciting times. While hysterectomy will remain an option, it will no longer be the only viable option.
Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growth that develops within the uterus. They're extremely common, with around 80-90% of African American women and 70% of caucasian women having them by the time they're age 50. But even benign growths can still cause some serious problems in the wrong circumstances. Many fibroids cause no symptoms at all, but others can cause symptoms severe enough to interfere with fertility and your quality of life.
Women in their reproductive years are most at risk for uterine fibroids. It's quite rare for women to have troublesome fibroids after menopause. Fibroids are most common in African American women but are also quite common in Caucasian women. Any woman can have fibroids, even if she's not in one of the obvious risk groups.
In some cases there are no indicators at all. In cases where the fibroids cause problems, the following symptoms may occur.
There are several methods of diagnosing uterine fibroids. In many cases, the fibroids can be identified during a pelvic exam, as Dr. Rahman may be able to feel them during her examination. If uterine fibroids are suspected but can't be found during a pelvic exam or if confirmation is needed, a pelvic ultrasound or an MRI may be done. Imaging is helpful in identifying the exact size, and physical location of the uterine fibroids as this information can help determine if they need to be removed.
Treatment for uterine fibroids can vary based on your specific symptoms and needs. Fibroids that don't cause symptoms typically don't need treatment, but Dr. Rahman will closely monitor those fibroids during future check-ups.
If the fibroids are causing problems like excessive bleeding and pelvic pain, options can include pain medication, hormones, and surgery.
Pain medication is often very effective in alleviating discomfort, but it's not a permanent solution.
Hormones can help alleviate symptoms like heavy bleeding and can even help shrink fibroids.
A surgical procedure called a myomectomy can remove the fibroids but not the uterus, while a hysterectomy removes the uterus and ends fertility.