What is a fibroid?
A fibroid is a benign (non-cancerous) but abnormal growth of muscle in the wall of the uterus. Small fibroids sometimes shrink on their own, but most of the time they continue to grow.
How common are they?
Almost 80% of uteri that are examined after a hysterectomy have at least 1 fibroid, although only 12-25% of women will develop symptoms from these fibroids in their lifetime. So while the vast majority of women have fibroids, only some of them will go on to develop symptoms.
What sort of symptoms can women with fibroids have?
Fibroids most commonly cause heavy periods or irregular bleeding. They are also a very common cause of painful periods. When fibroids reach a certain size, they can cause symptoms of compression in the pelvis like bloating, abdominal fullness, pelvic pressure and urinary frequency. Some fibroids can also cause problems with infertility.
What non-surgical treatments are available?
Often times birth control, other hormones or other medications can help decrease the amount of bleeding women have as a result of fibroids. If the fibroids are small, an IUD or an endometrial ablation may help. A procedure called a Uterine Artery Embolization stops the blood supply to the uterus by injecting a clotting agent through a catheter placed in the groin. It is done as an outpatient procedure and immediate results are great. However, ~20% of women will need another treatment (surgery or a repeat embolization) within five years.
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