Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that form in or around the womb. The growths are made up of fibrous tissue and muscle. They can vary in size and in rare cases can lead to complications that cause infertility. They are sometimes referred to as myomas or leiomyomas.
- SEEK HELP – Seek help from a gynaecologist that provides a calm, unhurried environment.
- DIAGNOSIS – Prompt diagnosis will help undercover what might be causing your symptoms.
- TREATMENT – Knowing your treatment options allows you to make informed decisions about your women’s health.
- DON’T DELAY – Prompt treatment of gynaecology conditions often results in a greater chance of success.
Fibroids rarely cause any symptoms so most women are unaware that they have them. Often they are diagnosed during a routine gynaecological examination or scan. If fibroids do cause symptoms, you may experience:
- heavy or painful periods
- pain in your tummy
- swelling / bloating of your tummy
- pain during sex
- lower back pain
- needing to wee more frequently
What causes Fibroids is not fully understood, but it is believed to be linked to the hormone Oestrogen. Fibroids normally develop when Oestrogen levels are at their highest during a woman’s prime reproductive years (16-50 years). They tend to shrink after the menopause when Oestrogen levels are low.
Fibroids are believed to occur in roughly one in three women at some point in their lives. They are most common between the ages of 30 and 50 and particularly in women of African-Caribbean origin.
Because they tend not to cause symptoms, Fibroids are most often diagnosed during a routine gynaecological examination or scan.
If your GP suspects you may have Fibroids you are likely to be referred for an ultrasound scan to confirm the diagnosis. Two types of scan are used to diagnose Fibroids:
- An abdominal ultrasound scan uses an ultrasound probe which is moved around on the outside of your tummy.
- A transvaginal ultrasound scan involves inserting a small ultrasound probe into your vagina.
If the scan indicates that you may have Fibroids, your gynaecologist may suggest further tests such as:
- Hysteroscopy – a small telescope is inserted into your vagina to allow them to examine the inside of your womb.
- Laparoscopy – a surgeon will make a small incision into your abdomen and insert a laparoscope, which is a small telescope with a light source and a camera at one end. The laparoscope allows the surgeon to examine your internal organs and your pelvis. This procedure is carried out under general anaesthetic.
Fibroids don’t generally need treatment unless they are causing symptoms, as they will normally disappear by themselves, particularly after the menopause. If you do need treatment, medication is normally offered first to relieve symptoms and shrink the Fibroids. In some cases, surgery may be needed.
Also, if you do need treatment, then it would depend on your symptoms, your wishes to conserve fertility and where and how big the fibroids are as to the kind of treatment that would be offered.