You may be surprised to learn that 8 in 10 women will develop uterine fibroids by the age of 50. Uterine fibroids are common, non-cancerous growths of the uterine muscle consisting of smooth muscle cells and connective tissue. A woman may have one fibroid or groups of several fibroids, and they can range in size from less than 1 inch to more than 8 inches across. For some women, fibroids will go undetected and not cause any symptoms or trouble. But at least 25 percent of women with fibroids will experience a broad range of symptoms from mild to very severe, and will require treatment.
Here are key findings from a survey published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Journal of Women’s Health:
- Women with fibroid symptoms often wait many years before seeking treatment or diagnosis from a health care provider.
- African American women are disproportionately affected by fibroids, have more severe symptoms, wait even longer to seek a diagnosis, and have a greater need for information.
- Most women reported fears associated with their fibroids, including being afraid that they will grow (79 percent), as well as fears regarding relationships, sexual function, body image, loss of control, and hopelessness.
- Two-thirds (66 percent) of women were concerned about missed days from work due to their symptoms, and 24 percent of employed respondents felt that their symptoms prevented them from reaching their career potential.
- Women strongly prefer treatment options that are not invasive and can protect fertility.
Women experiencing fibroid symptoms have many treatment options available to them. Speak to a health care provider as soon as possible about symptoms. Fibroid symptoms include:
- heavy, prolonged or erratic menstrual bleeding
- menstrual pain or cramping
- passing blood clots
- abdominal enlargement
- urinary frequency or difficulty urinating
- painful intercourse
- chronic watery discharge
A delay in diagnosis can limit the effectiveness of treatment options available (due to unnecessary growth of fibroids, for example). The earlier one gets a diagnosis of fibroids, the more treatment options available, enabling one to choose a treatment based on health, lifestyle and professional needs, and family preferences.
Treatment options include:
- Watchful waiting - recommended when fibroids are not currently causing any symptoms.
- Hormonal therapy - involves the use of birth control pills or other hormones to shrink fibroids or control fibroid related bleeding.
- Non-hormonal therapies - includes a class of drugs called “antifibrinolytics” recently adopted in the United States to decrease heavy bleeding.
- Focused ultrasound - a newer, noninvasive, no-incision technology that uses waves of ultrasound energy to heat and destroy fibroid tissue.
- Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) - involves surgery to block the uterine artery with small particles to decrease blood supply to fibroids.
- Myomectomy procedures – can be either hysteroscopic, laparoscopic, abdominal, or robotic – involve surgical removal of fibroids from the uterus.
- Hysterectomy (including laparoscopic, vaginal, abdominal or robotic) involves removing the uterus entirely, eliminating any possibility of fibroid recurrence.
If you suspect you have fibroids, make an appointment with one of our doctors and begin learning about treatment options. The closer you are to the onset of your symptoms, the more likely it is that you will have a range of treatment options available to you for symptom relief and better quality of