Because women's reproductive health is such an important topic, and one that needs more research, it's perfectly valid to ask your gynecologist what are uterine fibroids? Most annual pelvic exams include a moment in which your doctor feels around your uterus with his or her fingers. This is often how uterine fibroids are detected. OK, but you still want to know what they are.
According to Mayo Clinic, uterine fibroids, also called leiomyomas or myomas, are noncancerous growths that rarely develop into uterine cancer. They are basically masses of cells, that for some unknown reason, have multiplied to create a firm, rubbery tumor around the myometrium (the tissue around the uterus). Uterine fibroids vary in size: some are as small as seeds, while others can grow to be five pounds, and in some rare cases grow as large as a basketball, making you appear pregnant.
Although uterine fibroids are usually benign, doctors may opt to remove them for testing by performing a biopsy, or because they are causing discomfort. Your doctor may also suggest that you do nothing and leave them be. Treatment options for uterine fibroids depend on their size, the severity of your symptoms, your age, and if you want to become pregnant in the future, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women's Health.
Whether or not you want to have a live birth, there are several things you should know about uterine fibroids, so you can be as informed as possible about your body, because it's the only one you've got.
Symptoms Of Uterine Fibroids
According to United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women's Health, some uterine fibroids present no symptoms, even if they are large enough to require surgery. Other times, symptoms present and they include heavy bleeding or painful periods, lower back pain, abdominal pain, and enlarged abdomen, and painful intercourse.
Who Is At Risk For Uterine Fibroids?
There's not a ton known about what causes uterine fibroids, though some evidence points to genetics. Hormones might also be a factor. Tumors tend to grow rapidly when the body produces estrogen and progesterone, like during pregnancy. Tumors tend to shrink in the absence of these hormones, like during menopause. Mayo Clinic reported that as many as three out of four women will have uterine fibroids at some point in her life.
Myomectomy, or the surgical removal of fibroids, is a common treatment for women who want to become pregnant, because it does not remove the healthy part of the uterus. The type of surgery depends on the size and location of the fibroids. Sometimes, myomectomy is like a Cesarean birth, that involves cutting into the abdomen.
Doctors also perform hysterectomies on women who do not want children, or are nearing menopause. The Office of Women's Health noted that hysterectomies are the only way to "cure" uterine fibroids by removing the uterus.
As U.S. Health noted, new research on hormone therapy to treat uterine fibroids is underway, which is good news for women who don't want to put their bodies through surgery.