Uterine fibroids are benign tumours that are very common in women. Less than 1% of fibroids are cancerous. They usually grow within the muscle wall of the uterus, or on the outer surface of the uterus, and often grow in clusters. They can vary in size from a pea to a grapefruit or even larger. Over time, fibroids may continue to grow, but they generally regress after menopause as estrogen levels drop.
You are at an increased risk if:
- you are older than 30 years, with the greatest risk occurring between the ages of 40 and 50
- you are African-American
- your mother has a history of uterine fibroids
- you are obese
Symptoms associated with fibroids depend on their size and location, in addition to other gynaecological disorders. The most common symptoms include:
- increasingly heavy menstrual bleeding
- bleeding between periods
- pain in the lower abdomen
- pain during intercourse
- feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen
- increased abdominal volume causing bloating
- increase in urinary frequency
Most women who have fibroids do not experience any complications. Some however, may develop excessively heavy bleeding, anemia, heart palpitations, discomfort, poor circulation, urinary problems or severe constipation. In some women, uterine fibroids may also affect fertility.
When fibroids are diagnosed during pregnancy, no particular treatment is indicated since complications are rare. However, when fibroids develop inside the uterus itself, they may prevent pregnancy and cause repeated miscarriages.
Women who do not have symptoms do not generally require treatment. A follow-up every 6 to 12 months however, is recommended. In some cases, hormone therapy may be used. In other cases, anti-inflammatories can alleviate some of the symptoms. Surgery is an option, but only if major complications arise, or if the patient has severe symptoms.
Women with one or several of the above mentioned symptoms should consult with their doctor so that the necessary examinations can be performed, and to ensure that the appropriate follow-up is carried out.
For more information, speak to your pharmacist!