A fibroid (leiomyoma) is a benign growth of muscle in the uterus (womb).
These growths may occur on the outside, in the wall or in the cavity of the uterus.
While the exact cause of fibroids is uncertain it is likely that a number of factors contribute to the formation of fibroids, including genetic or familial predisposition, environmental and immunological factors, and in particular, hormonal factors. Generally, the female hormone (oestrogen) causes fibroids to grow.
Fibroids affect up to two in every five women over the age of 40. Fibroids are more common in women with infertility, and in those with few or no children.
Under the influence of female hormones, fibroids usually continue to grow until menopause. In most patients, fibroids do not cause any problems and do not require any treatment. Fibroids usually shrink after menopause (change of life) and become less common.
Most fibroids do not produce any symptoms, however, symptoms may include:
- Pain with periods, pain when passing urine or opening bowels and chronic pelvic and lower back pain
- Difficulty falling pregnant (infertility)
- Abnormal bleeding: irregular or heavy periods; bleeding between your periods
- Rarely, fibroids may become cancerous. This risk does increase in women after menopause, but probably occurs in less than 1:1000 cases
A doctor or gynaecologist can diagnose fibroids at the time of a pelvic examination or they can be imaged by ultrasound, CT or MRI. The diagnosis can be further confirmed by hysteroscopy or laparoscopy.
There are several treatments for fibroids and your Eve Health gynaecologist can guide you through these so that together, you select the best treatment that suits you. If the fibroid does not cause any problems then it can be treated by observation. As a short-term treatment, we can induce artificial menopause to shrink the fibroids.
If surgery is required, there are three main surgical options.
- We can undertake a uterine artery embolisation procedure, which cuts off the blood supply to the fibroid so that it shrinks,
- Surgical Myomectomy can be performed to remove the fibroids if there are only a small number of them in a favourable location in the uterus. More information on myomectomy is available here.
- Hysterectomy to remove the uterus and fibroids altogether. More information on hysterectomy is available here.