Around 20-40% of women worldwide are affected by uterine fibroids, noncancerous tumors that grow in or on the muscle wall of the uterus. For African American women, the number is even higher – up to 80%.
So why is it that so many women don’t know about uterine fibroids? The fact is that some women with fibroids don’t even know they have them.
How do I know if I have fibroids?
When fibroids show symptoms, most women experience excessive menstrual bleeding and severe pelvic pain and pressure. These symptoms can also be accompanied by urinary incontinence and anemia due to extreme blood loss.
However, many women don’t experience any symptoms at all, and therefore may not know they have fibroids. A woman who does not show symptoms may find out she has fibroids if her OB-GYN finds them in her annual doctor’s visit.
When should I treat fibroids?
If you have discovered that you have fibroids but are not showing symptoms, it is not always necessary to treat them. Typically, only 10-20% of women with fibroids require treatment. Many doctors will prescribe what is called watchful waiting, which is when he or she checks on the development of the fibroids annually.
However, if you are experiencing symptoms, you may want to consider treating the fibroids. There are several treatment options that have been proven to reduce or eliminate the painful symptoms of uterine fibroids.
There are three main treatments available for treating fibroids, the first of which is a hysterectomy. A hysterectomy is the full removal of the uterus, either through the abdomen or the vagina. Recovery time for this procedure is typically 3-6 weeks, depending on the method performed. After a hysterectomy, the woman immediately enters into menopause.
The second type of treatment is a myomectomy, a surgical procedure that involves removing only the fibroids. The surgeon uses instruments to cut out and remove the fibroids, either through the vagina, small incisions in the abdomen, or a larger incision across the abdomen for larger fibroids.
The last common treatment is uterine fibroid embolization, an outpatient procedure used to block the blood supply to the fibroids. The doctor makes an incision in the femoral artery and guides an instrument through to the uterine artery, where he inserts material to block the blood supply to the fibroids. This causes the fibroids to shrink and die.
While it is not always necessary to treat fibroids, if you are showing symptoms, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about the options. To learn more about uterine fibroid embolization and other alternatives, visit the treatment options page on our website.
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.