Uterine fibroid care
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are benign lumps that grow in or on the uterus. The size and shape of fibroids vary among women and can change over time. A uterine fibroid can stay the same size for years and suddenly grow larger, or it can slowly grow larger over time.
Symptoms of uterine fibroids can include:
- Longer, more frequent, or heavy periods
- Menstrual pain (cramps)
- Anemia (from blood loss)
- Pain or aching in the lower back
- Painful sex
- Frequent urination
Fibroids attached to the uterus by a stem can twist and cause pain, nausea or fever. Fibroids that grow rapidly, or those that start breaking down, can also cause pain. A very large fibroid can cause swelling of the abdomen.
Learn more about fibroids in our Flourish podcast
Listen to Albert Odom, MD, discuss uterine fibroids and treatment options.
Who is most likely to have fibroids?
Fibroids are most common in women 30–40 years old, but they can occur at any age. Fibroids are found more often in African American women, occuring at a younger age and growing more quickly.
How are fibroids treated?
Not all fibroids require treatment. If there are no symptoms, the best approach may be diagnosis and watchful waiting. Your physician will monitor fibroids for growth at your annual visits.
Treatment with medication
Medication will not get rid of fibroids but may shrink them to a smaller size reducing heavy bleeding and painful periods that fibroids sometimes cause. It also may not prevent fibroids from growing or new ones developing. While medication can be a good option for some women, you should talk to your gynecologist about medication side effects and long-term treatment success.
Surgical options for the treatment of fibroids
There are several surgical treatments for uterine fibroids.
Myomectomy is the surgical removal of fibroids while leaving the uterus in place. Because a woman keeps her uterus, she might still be able to have children. Fibroids do not regrow after surgery, but new fibroids may develop. If they do, more surgery might be needed.
Radiofrequency ablation is a safe, effective and minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery that does not harm the uterus. This technology treats each fibroid by applying energy through a small ultrasound guided needle. Over time, the treated fibroid tissue shrinks and can become completely reabsorbed by the body. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia in an outpatient setting.
Hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus. The ovaries may or may not be removed. Hysterectomy is done when other treatments have not worked or are not possible or the fibroids are very large. A woman is no longer able to have children after having a hysterectomy.
Talk to your primary care OB/GYN if you think you might have uterine fibroids. Together, you will create a treatment plan that’s right for you.
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