Can you imagine what it would look like if you had a tumor the size of a baseball growing in your abdomen? What about the size of a grapefruit? Or a football?
For some women, this is a reality. Those who suffer from uterine fibroids – noncancerous tumors that grow on or in the muscle lining of the uterus – can have tumors so large that they are physically noticeable. Because of this, a woman with fibroids may appear bloated or even pregnant when in fact, she is not.
What causes fibroids?
While 20-40% of women older than 35 are affected by fibroids, doctors are not sure exactly what causes them. The growth of the tumors seems to be directly influenced by the hormone estrogen. Usually, fibroids tend to shrink or disappear after menopause.
There are a few other factors that may influence whether or not a woman develops fibroids:
- Family history: Women whose mothers or sisters have had fibroids are more likely to develop them.
- Ethnicity: African-American women have a higher risk of developing fibroids.
- Early menstruation: Women who have their first period before age 10 are more likely to develop fibroids.
- Pregnancy: Women who have had children are less likely to develop fibroids.
How do fibroids resemble pregnancy?
One of the symptoms of fibroids is a bloated abdomen. Fibroids can range in size from the size of a peanut to the size of a cantaloupe, and in some cases, even larger. This causes the tumor to press against the walls of the uterus and abdomen, resembling an early stage pregnancy.
Other symptoms of uterine fibroids include heavy menstrual bleeding, severe pelvic pain and pressure, and urinary incontinence. If you are experiencing any of these, talk to your doctor about doing a test for uterine fibroids.
What treatment options are out there?
Most women who suffer from fibroids opt for one of three main treatments: hysterectomy, myomectomy, or uterine fibroid embolization.
In a hysterectomy, the entire uterus is removed, including the fibroids. This is an option often used by women who do not plan to have any more children. One side effect is the immediate plunge into menopause following the surgery.
A myomectomy is a surgery that involves the removal of only the fibroids. There are several ways this procedure can be performed, whether it is laparoscopically or through a more invasive approach. Large tumors usually require a longer incision in the abdomen.
Uterine fibroid embolization is a less invasive procedure that involves blocking the blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to shrink. Women who want to be back on their feet within a few days often choose this procedure, and 90% of women are satisfied at follow up.
If you are interested in learning more about fibroids, how they can affect your body, and how to get treated, visit our website at ask4ufe.com.
PLEASE NOTE: The above information should not be construed as providing specific medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician.