Fibroids are abnormal growths that develop in or on a woman’s uterus. Sometimes, these tumors become quite large and cause severe abdominal pain and heavy periods. In other cases, they cause no signs or symptoms at all. The growths are typically benign (noncancerous). The cause of fibroids is unknown. They are growths of smooth muscle, and can vary from the size of a bean to as large as a melon. They are also known as uterine fibroids, leiomyomas, or myomas. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 70 to 80 percent of women have them by the age of 50, but most women do not have any symptoms.
It is unclear why fibroids develop, but several factors may influence their formation.Hormones
Estrogen and progesterone are the hormones produced by the ovaries. They cause the uterine lining to regenerate during each menstrual cycle and may stimulate the growth of fibroids.Family History
Fibroids may run in the family. If your mother, sister, or grandmother has a history of this condition, you may develop it as well.Pregnancy
Pregnancy increases the production of estrogen and progesterone in your body. They may develop and grow rapidly while you are pregnant.Symptoms
Symptoms will depend on the location and size of the tumor(s) and how many tumors you have. If your tumor is very small, or if you are going through menopause, you may not have any symptoms. Fibroids may shrink during and after menopause.Symptoms of fibroids may include:
Medications to regulate your hormone levels may be prescribed to shrink fibroids. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, such as leuprolide (Lupron), will cause your estrogen and progesterone levels to drop. It will eventually stop menstruation and shrink fibroids.
Other options that can help control bleeding and pain, but will not shrink or eliminate fibroids, include:
Surgery to remove very large or multiple growths (myomectomy) may be performed. An abdominal myomectomy involves making a large incision in the abdomen to access the uterus and remove the fibroids. The surgery can also be performed laparoscopically, using a few small incisions into which surgical tools and a camera are inserted.
Your physician may perform a hysterectomy (removal of your uterus) if your condition worsens, or if no other treatments work. However, this means that you will not be able to bear children in the future.Minimally Invasive Procedures
A newer and completely noninvasive surgical procedure is forced ultrasound surgery (FUS). You will lie down inside a special MRI machine that allows doctors to visualize the inside of your uterus. High-energy, high-frequency sound waves will be directed at the fibroids to destroy (ablate) them.
Similarly, myolysis shrinks fibroids using an electric current or laser, while cryomyolysis freezes the fibroids. Endometrial ablation involves inserting a special instrument into your uterus to destroy the uterine lining using heat, electric current, hot water, or microwaves.
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