What are fibroids?

Fibroids (also called myomas) are non-cancerous tumors of the uterus. They are primarily made of muscle tissue and are the most common pelvic tumor in women. These tumors can grow to be very large and may cause severe abdominal pain, heavy periods, or even issues with fertility. Fibroids can vary in location, size, and number.

Symptoms of Fibroids

Many women will develop fibroids during their lifetime without experiencing any symptoms. Though most fibroids are asymptomatic, the location, size, and number of fibroids can influence the amount of symptoms an individual experiences.

The most common fibroids include:

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Menstrual periods lasting longer than a week
  • Frequent urination/difficulty emptying the bladder
  • Constipation
  • Backache and frequent leg pains

In severe cases, fibroids can cause infertility.

Treatment of Fibroids

Treatment for fibroids can range from no treatment at all to surgery. Unless fibroids are causing excessive bleeding, discomfort or bladder problems, treatment usually isn’t necessary.

If fibroids are causing health issues, the following treatments are available:

  • Medications. The common medications for fibroid treatment can temporarily improve symptoms but do not make the fibroids go away. For women experiencing heavy bleeding, we recommend trying medication before moving forward with surgical procedures. Women with pressure symptoms caused by large fibroids won’t benefit from this type of medication.
  • Contraceptive Pills/Progestational Agents. If you are experiencing heavy menstrual periods caused by fibroids, we may prescribe hormonal medications to regulate your menstrual cycle. These medications can help reduce bleeding but will not shrink fibroids or make them grow at a faster rate.
  • Intrauterine Devices (IUD). Although IUDs are most commonly known as a contraceptive, they can also help alleviate fibroid symptoms. An IUD that releases a small amount of hormone into the uterine cavity can decrease bleeding caused by fibroids.

If medications are not helping alleviate your symptoms, surgical options may be the right choice for you. Surgical options include:

  • Myomectomy. A myomectomy is an operation that removes fibroids while preserving the uterus. For women who have fibroid symptoms and want to have children in the future, we will generally recommend a myomectomy as the best treatment option. Myomectomy is very effective, but fibroids can re-grow. The younger you are and the more fibroids you have at the time of myomectomy, the more likely you are to develop fibroids again in the future. Women nearing menopause are the least likely to have recurring problems from fibroids after a myomectomy.
  • Hysterectomy. Hysterectomy is a major surgical procedure in which the uterus is removed. Many women choose hysterectomy to definitively resolve their fibroid symptoms. After hysterectomy, menstrual bleeding stops, pelvic pressure is relieved, frequent urination improves and new fibroids cannot grow. A woman can no longer become pregnant after a hysterectomy. This procedure is performed in the most severe fibroid cases where other treatment options have failed.