Is fibroid treatment elective?

December 23, 2014

Hearing a diagnosis of fibroids might feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Fibroids are far more common than you might think, and there are exciting new treatment options available for women who suffer from the effects of uterine fibroids.

What are Fibroids?

Fibroids are firm, generally benign, tumors that grow inside of, and on the surface of, the uterus. Also known as uterine fibromas, leiomyomas or myomas, these compact masses are made of fibrous connective tissue and smooth muscle cells. Approximately 70%-80% of women will develop fibroid tumors during her reproductive years, but the impact this will have on her overall health varies from woman to woman.

The exact cause of fibroids is not known, though current theory is that they develop due to a combination of an aberrant muscle cells and the presence of estrogen; the two join together to produce a tumor. Most fibroids, up to 99 percent of all detected fibroids, are not cancerous and will never become cancerous. But they can still cause health problems if they are not treated.

Fibroids range in size from that of a pea to tumors large enough to be felt by the patient and her physician; about the size of a soft ball or grapefruit. In the case of tumors large enough to be a source of pain or other symptoms, fibroid treatment is the best option for remedying the uncomfortable situation. Where the fibroids are tiny enough not to cause health problems, they are unlikely even to be detected and treatment may be unnecessary.

What Happens if Larger Fibroids are Left Untreated?

Uterine fibroids that grow large enough to be detected can cause a wide range of troublesome symptoms, including lower back pain, abnormally heavy or long periods, bleeding between periods, pain or frequent urination due to the tumor pressing on pelvic organs or the bladder, or pain during sexual intercourse. If left untreated, the increased blood loss due to heavy periods and between-period bleeding can lead to anemia, which can have serious consequences. In those cases, it is wise to consult your physician as to the best fibroid treatment for you.

Fibroid Treatment Options

There are several options for treatment. The mildest and least invasive is simple painkillers, which are commonly used in cases where the tumors are tiny and causing few complications. The most radical and invasive fibroid treatment is a hysterectomy, which is major abdominal surgery to remove the uterus carrying with it all the risks that entails. Hormone therapies are also available, such as estrogen reduction and anti-progestin therapies, though these tend to come with unpleasant side effects.

One fibroid therapy, called radiofrequency ablation, uses an FDA-cleared small array needle device to target and shrink fibroids without damaging the surrounding tissue. This is an outpatient procedure with a four- to five-day recovery time and minimally invasive. Many patients achieve successful results with radiofrequency ablation and are back to living their normal daily lives without the discomfort of uterine fibroids.


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