What Are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids, also known as uterine leiomyomas, myomas, fibromas or [simply] fibroids, are benign smooth muscle tumors of the uterus. According to statistics, women from 30 to 50 years old are susceptible to the disease, however, doctors often find fibroid nodes in patients under 30.

Many women have no symptoms while other women experience some fibroid-related symptoms.

Related: Learn more about common fibroid symptoms

A woman can have one uterine fibroid or many and they can vary in sizes and location in the uterus. But treatment is not necessary if patients experience no symptoms.

Most American women will develop uterine fibroids at some point in their lives. Studies found that, by age 50, up to 70 percent of Caucasian and up to 80 percent of African American females have uterine fibroids.

Fibroids are a hormone-dependent tumor: a change in the level of the female sex hormone estrogen provokes its growth.

The specific reason why fibroids form is not yet established, but doctors identify the main risk factors:

Uterine Fibroid Risk Factors: Do Genetic Fibroids Exist?

What’s a fibroid tumor?

A tumor is a mass of abnormal tissue. There are two types of tumors: those that are non-cancerous, or ‘benign’, and those that are cancerous, or ‘malignant’. Fibroid tumors are almost always non-cancerous.

Cancerous fibroid tumors are very rare (approximately one in 1,000). There are different types of fibroid tumors:

  • Intramural fibroids are the most common type that appears within the muscular wall of the uterus. These myomas can grow larger and stretch your womb (uterus).
  • Subserosal fibroids form on the outside of your uterus. These myomas may also grow large enough to make your womb appear bigger on one side (patients often report “looking pregnant” when fibroid tumors enlarge uterus).
  • Pedunculated fibroids grow on small stalks inside or outside the uterus.
  • Submucosal fibroids grow just underneath the uterine lining and can lead to heavy bleeding and other more serious complications.

Uterine fibroids are often discovered during a routine pelvic exam (especially if they are small and cause no symptoms). Your doctor may feel or see anomalies in your uterus that suggest uterine fibroids. If you have uterine fibroid symptoms, your gynecologist may recommend an ultrasound or a pelvic MRI to diagnose uterine fibroids.

Can a woman get pregnant with fibroids? Uterine fibroids are not considered as a factor that makes pregnancy impossible. Infertility does not often develop with uterine fibroids, and it is usually associated with the presence of other diseases of the reproductive system.

Can I play sports with fibroids? Fibroid nodes are not a reason for refusing physical activity. Sports without weighting and sudden movements will only benefit. There are only a few restrictions when it’s best to limit your exercise to yoga, fast walking, and light morning exercises:

– if the fibroids lead to abundant menstruation and anemia;
– if there are large nodes that compress the internal organs, causing pain.

Do I need to change my diet with fibroids? Yes, a special low-estrogen fibroid diet can reduce tumor growth or even reduce unpleasant symptoms.

How Can I Cure Uterine Fibroids?

When the symptoms of fibroids are mild, a proper fibroid diet, regular exercise, weight loss, alcohol and smoking cessation help control tumor growth. Uterine fibroids are sensitive to estrogens, and estrogen accumulates in fat. Thus, reducing body fat will help slow down the growth of fibroids.

If fibroids do not prevent a woman from living the usual life, treatment is not necessary, it is enough to undergo a gynecological examination regularly.

However, if a woman experiences heavy periods, pain and other unpleasant symptoms, or if she is planning a pregnancy, fibroid treatment is indicated.

Currently, surgical removal of fibroids – myomectomy – has limited indications. There is a nonsurgical treatment option that has shown great effectiveness.

The most gentle, safe and fast method of treating uterine fibroids is Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE).

The UFE has great advantages over surgical treatment:

– This is a minimally invasive procedure that is performed under local anesthesia. The doctor only does a femoral artery puncture to insert a catheter into the vessel.
– Short recovery period (less than a week).
– Almost zero risks of relapse.
– There is no risk of adhesions in the pelvis.
– There are no scars on the uterus.
– There is a very high probability of becoming pregnant 3-6 months after the procedure.

For more information on fibroids and UFE, make an appointment with Dr. John Lipman of Atlanta Fibroid Center by calling 770-214-4600 or make an appointment online.