Fibroids are abnormal (non cancerous) growths that develop in or on a woman’s uterus which appear during childbearing years. At least 20% of the women by the age of 30 and 70- 80 % by the age of 50 have fibroids in their uterus. But most females don’t know that they have fibroids because often they cause no symptoms. Fibroids range in size from seedlings undetectable by the human eye to bulky masses which can distort and enlarge the uterus.
Who is at risk for fibroids?
Women with one or more of the following risk factors are at greater risk-
Family history of fibroids
Age >30 years
High body weight
Being of African American descent
Early menstruation(first period before the age of 10)
Fibroid pain: When to be concerned?
Most often, uterine fibroids are a symptomatic, when women do include symptoms they include:
Changes in menstruation:
Longer, more frequent/ heavy menstrual periods
Vaginal bleeding at times other than menstruation
Anaemia (from blood loss)-
In the abdomen or lower back or legs
Difficult or frequent urination
Constipation, rectal pain, or difficult bowel movements
Lump in abdomen
How are fibroids treated?
Treatment may non surgical or surgical.
Non surgical –
These methods include medication to decrease blood loss and pain. Oral contraceptive pills, GnRH analogues and progesterone releasing intra uterine device (Mirena) are other options which target hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. They decrease the symptoms of heavy menstrual bleeding, but don’t eliminate fibroids, but may shrink them.
Minimally invasive procedures-
Uterine artery embolisation – This technique can destroy fibroids without actually removing them through surgery. But it may not be beneficial in all fibroids.
Myomectomy (laparoscopic/hysteroscopic/abdominal) – In myomectomy surgeon removes the fibroids leaving the uterus in place.
Hysterectomy(laparoscopic/ abdominal) – Removal of the uterus remains the only proven permanent solution for uterine fibroids. But hysterectomy is a major surgery.
Protecting yourself against fibroids?
Exercise regularly- vigorous exercise for 3 or more hours a week may reduce the risk of developing fibroids by 30-40%
Weight management- being overweight increases risk of developing fibroids by about 10-20%
Dietary modification- reducing red meat consumption & eating green vegetables are associated with decreased risk.