Written By: Dr. Katherine Cheng
Uterine fibroids (子宮肌瘤), also known as leiomyomas, are common non-cancerous growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. While most women aren't aware they have fibroids because they often cause no symptoms, their effects can range from mild to severe, depending on the number, size, and type of fibroids. In this blog, we will delve into the details of fibroids, who can get them, how they develop, the different types, and available treatments.
What are uterine fibroids?
Fibroids are benign tumours that originate from smooth muscle cells within the uterus. They can vary in size, grow very large, and can occur in different places in the uterus. While fibroids are not associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer, they can cause several health problems, including heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and, in some cases, fertility issues. In extreme cases, some fibroids grow large enough to fill the stomach or pelvis area.
Who can get uterine fibroids?
Fibroids are most common in women of reproductive age, especially those between 30 and 40. However, they can occur at any age. Certain factors can increase a woman's risk of developing fibroids, such as family history, ethnicity (with African women at higher risk), obesity, and early onset of menstruation. These factors combined with hormonal imbalances can contribute to the development of fibroids.
How are uterine fibroids developed?
The exact cause of fibroid development is unclear, but research and clinical experience point to several factors. Genetics plays a role, as the condition often runs in families. Hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone, which support pregnancy, also promote the growth of fibroids. Additionally, growth factors and tissue injury can influence fibroid development. It's also important to note that fibroids tend to shrink after menopause when hormone production decreases.
Types of uterine fibroids
Fibroids are classified by their location in the uterus. Intramural fibroids, the most common type, develop within the uterine wall. Subserosal fibroids grow on the outer wall of the uterus, while submucosal fibroids grow just beneath the uterine lining and into the uterine cavity. Pedunculated fibroids develop a stem, a slender base that supports the tumor.
How are uterine fibroids diagnosed?
Uterine fibroids are diagnosed through a series of tests and procedures which may include:
- Pelvic Examination: This is usually the first step in diagnosing fibroids. During a routine pelvic exam, your doctor may feel irregularities in the shape of your uterus, potentially suggesting the presence of fibroids.
- Imaging Tests: These can provide a more definitive diagnosis. The commonly used imaging tests include:
- Ultrasound: This is the most commonly used method for detecting fibroids. A transducer is moved over the abdomen (transabdominal) or inside the vagina (transvaginal) to create images of the uterus and ovaries. This test can measure the size, location, and number of fibroids.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI provides a more detailed image of the uterus, making it helpful in confirming the diagnosis and for determining the size and location of fibroids.
- Hysterosonography: Also known as saline infusion sonogram, this test uses sterile saline to expand the uterine cavity, making obtaining images of the uterus and endometrium easier. It can be beneficial in determining whether fibroids extend into the uterine cavity (submucosal fibroids).
- Other Tests: In some cases, other tests may be necessary to rule out other diseases or conditions that may mimic or coexist with fibroids. These may include hysteroscopy, laparoscopy, or endometrial biopsy.
Treatments for uterine fibroids
Treatment for fibroids depends on the severity of your symptoms, the fibroids' size and location, and whether you're pregnant or planning to conceive. If you are relatively asymptomatic and the size of fibroids is small, you can regularly monitor fibroids' growth. Medication could sometimes relieve symptoms of heavy menstrual flow. Non-surgical procedures such as Uterine Artery Embolisation and high-intensity focused ultrasound are the treatment options.
Surgical options include myomectomy, which removes the fibroids and hysterectomy, which removes the uterus. Hysterectomy is usually the last resort and is only considered when other treatments have failed or if the fibroids are huge.
What naturally kills fibroids? Natural remedies to maintain a healthy weight and a balanced diet can also help manage symptoms of fibroids. Some research suggests that green tea may help reduce the size and number of fibroids, but more research is needed to confirm these findings.
Q&A for uterine fibroids
- Q: What are uterine fibroids?
- A: Fibroids, also known as uterine fibroids, are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb (uterus). The growths are made from muscle and fibrous tissue and vary in size. They are most commonly found in women during their reproductive years.
- Q: How are uterine fibroids diagnosed?
- A: Fibroids are often found during a routine pelvic exam. If your doctor suspects you have fibroids, they may recommend further tests such as ultrasound, MRI, or hysteroscopy to confirm the diagnosis and assess the size and location of the fibroids.
- Q: Can uterine fibroids lead to cancer?
- A: It's very rare for fibroids to turn into cancer. Fibroids are mostly benign (non-cancerous) growths.
- Q: Can lifestyle changes help manage uterine fibroids?
- A: While the exact cause of fibroids is unknown, certain lifestyle changes may help manage symptoms or potentially slow the growth of fibroids. These include maintaining a healthy weight, having a balanced diet, doing regular exercise, limit the intake of alcohol,
Uterine fibroid is common during reproductive years. Although they can cause discomfort and complications, there are several treatment options available, ranging from medication to surgery. If you suspect you have fibroids or are experiencing symptoms, it's essential to seek medical attention promptly.
At OT&P Healthcare, we provide a comprehensive range of services to help manage and treat fibroids and other women's health issues. Our team of dedicated professionals is committed to providing the highest quality care to all our patients. Schedule an appointment with a doctor if you have concerns about fibroids or other women's health issues. We're here to help you navigate your health journey and provide the best possible care.
- Mayo Clinic. Uterine fibroids. 20 Oct 2023 Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-fibroids/symptoms-causes/syc-20354288
- Cleveland Clinic. Uterine Fibroids. 20 Oct 2023 Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9130-uterine-fibroids
- MedlinePlus. Uterine fibroids. 20 Oct 2023 Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000914.htm
- Office on Women's Health. Uterine fibroids. 20 Oct 2023 Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/uterine-fibroids
- NHS. Fibroids. Uterine fibroids. 20 Oct 2023 Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fibroids/