If you’re one of the millions of women who have uterine fibroids, you’re certainly far from alone: approximately 40-80% of women have them. These non-cancerous growths (also called myomas) often don’t present any symptoms, especially the smaller they are.
However, sometimes fibroids can become quite large when you’re more likely to experience symptoms from them. In this case, it can also potentially impact your fertility. Dr. Alan Patterson explains more about what you need to know about fibroids and pregnancy.
Risk factors for fibroids
The incidence of fibroids is a pretty wide range from 40-80% of women. That should indicate that they are very common and also that many women don’t even know that they have them because they don’t cause any symptoms for them.
However, certain criteria do increase the likelihood of experiencing them. These include the following:
- Being overweight or obese
- Family history, which suggests there may be a genetic component
- Having your first period at an earlier-than-average age
- Experiencing late menopause (average age is 52)
- Not having children
Most fibroids are tiny, which is why the estimated range for their frequency is so large. However, larger fibroids do produce symptoms.
The symptoms of fibroids
If you have larger fibroids, you probably already have a sense that something may be wrong with your menstrual cycles. Some of the symptoms you may experience can include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Heavy periods
- Swelling in your pelvic or abdominal area
- Bleeding after intercourse
If you suspect that you might have fibroids, we can get you scheduled for further testing to confirm or rule them out.
The types of testing we may do
If you have symptoms that suggest you may have these non-cancerous growths inside your uterus, we will likely refer you for more testing. Rarely a fibroid can turn into a cancerous fibroid, but this is very uncommon with fibroids, and more likely in older women. Some of the tests we can use include the following:
This type of ultrasound is conducted with a transvaginal and transabdominal transducer, which looks like a wand. It picks up on the state of your internal organs, which will identify any fibroids and measure their size, and see what state the fibroid is in as sometimes the fibroid can be calcified.
This test, often referred to by the abbreviation HSG, may be most appropriate if we want to test the function of your Fallopian tubes. In some cases, such as if you have endometriosis, you may have scar tissue that blocks an egg from getting through the tube, or a fibroid in the cornual portion of your uterus can block your tube!
In this test, Dr. Patterson inserts a scope through your vagina to look at the walls of your uterus. He can also get an idea of how many fibroids you may have and their size.
If your fibroids are causing problems, Dr. Patterson has several options he can try. One is a procedure called an endometrial ablation. This treatment eliminates the fibroids from your uterus and may cause you to stop having periods entirely afterward, so it’s an option best chosen when your family is complete. But if you want to preserve your fertility, of get pregnant and you have one or more fibroids in the endometrial cavity, these can be removed by an office procedure called Myosure, where Dr Patterson can remove them through the hysteroscope, without any cutting of your skin.
You can also have an outpatient procedure called a laparoscopic myomectomy, which removes the growths from your uterus. In the most extreme cases, you may need a hysterectomy, which is the total removal of your uterus, but that is always a last resort.
If you suspect that you have fibroids, your best bet is to schedule an appointment. Contact Dr. Alan Patterson or request an appointment online.