Almost all women of childbearing age develop uterine fibroids at some point in their lives, which is usually nothing to worry about. Uterine fibroids are abnormal growths that appear inside or on the surface of the uterus. They vary in size and number. Sometimes these are so small that they cannot be detected with the naked eyes while sometimes they grow so big that they even distort the uterus and push towards the rib cage. Uterine fibroids also have different speeds at which they grow.

In some cases, they take too long to grow while in some, they grow really fast, and in others, they stay the same size. Uterine fibroids are mainly caused by the increased amounts of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in the body, which is why they are very common in pregnant women. However, in women that are going through the menopause phase or are post-menopausal if they have uterine fibroids, due to the lowered amounts of estrogen and progesterone in the body, these shrinks and disappear on their own. 

Although uterine fibroids are nothing to be worried about as they very rarely turn into something serious like cancer, there are some facts that every woman should be aware of when it comes to them.

1. Uterine Fibroids are very common

As per the National Institutes of Health, up to 80 per cent of women will suffer from uterine fibroids at different points in their lifetime. Since in some cases, due to the absence of symptoms, these get very difficult to diagnose. They are benign in nature and so not to be worried about much, but in some cases, they cause significant discomfort and pain.

2. There are just one type of uterine fibroids that women get

Uterine fibroids are fibrous growths that tend to originate from the uterine tissue, and they are known by different names like:

  • Fibromas
  • Uterine myomas
  • Leiomyomas
  • Myomas

3. Uterine Fibroids are of different size and shapes

Seedlings are those types of uterine fibroids that are very small in size, and sometimes fibroids grow big enough to cause the uterine even to change its shape. Pedunculated fibroids are those that grow on the outer surface of the uterus, also known as a serosa. These types of fibroids have a stalk to which the fibrous mass is attached.

Uterine fibroids are categorized according to the location in which they are found. Some types of uterine fibroids grow inside the uterus, which are known as intramural fibroids. Submucosal fibroids develop in the myometrium or the muscular tissue of the inside of the uterus, while subserosal fibroids grow and protrude from the outer layers of the uterus.

4. Uterine Fibroids Tumor may and may not have signs and symptoms

For some women, uterine fibroids do not cause any symptoms due to which they are not even aware that they have them; it is only through routine pelvic examinations that they are discovered. Some uterine fibroids due to their location can be felt during a routine exam of the pelvic area. The signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids when they do appear to include:

  • bleeding heavily during periods
  • menstrual periods that are longer than a week
  • a feeling of pressure in the pelvic region along with pain
  • the frequent urge to urinate 
  • constipation
  • pain in the leg and lower back region
  • bloating in the pelvic region
  • pain during sexual intercourse

Other menstrual disorders related to Uterine Fibroids are explained in details here.

Sometimes uterine fibroids cause so much heavy bleeding during periods that there is a risk that a woman might develop anaemia and so a blood transfusion might be needed. Uterine fibroids that grow very big in size turn the uterus shapeless, and this might cause difficulty in conceiving and maintaining pregnancy. Some types of uterine fibroids that grow inside the uterus can also block the way to the fallopian tubes, in which case a woman might have difficulty in becoming pregnant.

5. Diagnosis of uterine fibroids tumor

Diagnosis of uterine fibroids can be made with the help of various methods apart from a pelvic exam. These include:

  • Hysterosalpingography, which involves the use of a certain type of dye, which makes it easier for the doctor to see the fallopian tubes and the insides of the uterus while taking an X-ray.
  • MRI or magnetic resonance imaging helps in clearly seeing the location and the size of the fibroids, along with identifying the various types of uterine fibroids.
  • Hysterosonography, which is also known by the term saline infusion sonogram, involves injecting a type of saline solution inside the uterine cavity, which helps in expanding it. So the submucosal fibroids are clearly visible.
  • Hysteroscopy, this procedure involves the insertion of telescopic equipment, also known as a hysteroscope inside the uterine canal through the cervix. Through this telescope, the doctor can see the interior walls of the uterus to check for any fibroids and tumors.

6.  The exact cause of uterine fibroids is still not known

Health experts are still unsure as to what causes the development of uterine fibroids; however, some factors increase the chances of developing uterine fibroids. These include:

  • A family history of uterine fibroids- Having someone in the family like a sister, mother, or grandmother has a history of uterine fibroids dramatically increasing the chance of someone developing it.
  • Getting periods earlier- If a woman had her periods earlier than the average age, they are at a greater chance of developing uterine fibroids.
  • Being overweight- Being overweight increases the risk of a woman developing uterine fibroids.
  • Diet- If someone is on a diet rich in meat but has very low amounts of green vegetables, then again, there is an excellent chance of them suffering from uterine fibroids.
  • Use of alcohol- The chances of developing uterine fibroids also increases if someone consumes a lot of alcohol, including beer.

It has been seen that uterine fibroids have a genetic profile that is different from the surrounding tissues from which they grow. It has been observed that uterine fibroids contain receptors of estrogen and progesterone. The hormones estrogen and progesterone are responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle, and along with that, they are also responsible for preparing the uterus for pregnancy by allowing the inner uterine lining to become thicker and in the absence of fertilization the lining sheds in the form of a period. Estrogen and progesterone also seem to have a significant role in the development of uterine fibroids.

7. Uterine fibroids do not grow at the same rate

Uterine fibroids seem to have a different rate at which they grow. Sometimes they grow very slowly while sometimes they grow at an alarming rate. There are also some cases where uterine fibroids stay the same size for a long time. Some uterine fibroids also disappear on their own without any medical intervention like those that pregnant women get.

Due to the increased amounts of hormones estrogen and progesterone in the body, pregnant women tend to suffer from uterine fibroids more; however, after delivery, these disappear on their own. Additionally, in women that are post-menopausal or are going through menopause in case they already have uterine fibroids, these have been seen to shrink and disappear due to the low levels of estrogen and progesterone in their body.

8. Uterine fibroids tumor can be treated in varied ways

There was a time when if a woman had uterine fibroids, a hysterectomy was the only way it could be cured. However, with advancements in the medical sphere today, there are many non-invasive ways uterine fibroids can be treated. Certain medications help those women that experience heavy bleeding during periods due to uterine fibroids. These medications help regulate the amount of estrogen and progesterone in the body and also help in shrinking the size of the fibroids over time.

However, it is worth noting that these medications are just for managing heavy periods and the overall discomfort experienced due to fibroids other than that they do not do anything when it comes to getting rid of them. Birth control pills are also of great help when it comes to managing heavy periods, but again they do not get rid of the uterine fibroids. 

If uterine fibroids are becoming a hurdle in the way of conception, they can be removed with the help of surgery. With the help of surgery, the fibroids can be easily removed without damaging the uterus and other reproductive organs. Some of these surgeries can be performed laparoscopically as well. This involves making some small incisions and removing the fibroids with the help of surgical tools and a camera. This option provides a faster recovery time as compared to an open type surgery. 

 Uterine fibroids tumor can also be treated with non-invasive methods that include procedures like myolysis, cryomyolysis, forced ultrasound surgery, endometrial ablation, etc. These procedures involve the removal of fibroids with the help of heat, laser, sound waves, freezing, hot water, and electric current, etc.  

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References

  • About Fibroid Tumor: Reference from clevlandclinic.org, WebMD, and CDC.gov