What are the signs, symptoms and treatment of fibroids?
Fibroids are tumours found in the uterus. Mostly women in the reproductive bracket are prone to fibroids (also called uterine myomas, lelomyomas or fibromas); though not all are diagnosed. The tumors are not cancerous in most cases, about 99% of the cases, and don’t increase a woman’s chances of getting cancer of the uterus. The sizes of fibroids vary from pea size, size of a soft ball or a small grape fruit.
Causes of fibroids
The exact cause of fibroids is unknown though it is believed that increased exposure to oestrogen increases ones chances of getting fibroids. Women approaching menopause are at a greater risk of getting fibroids because of their prolonged exposure to oestrogen levels.
There are arguments that bearing children prevents one from fibroids. Some studies have shown that getting at least two live born children reduces risk of getting fibroids by half than not bearing any child at all. This has caused confusion to scientists as to whether getting children actually protects one from fibroids or whether infertility causes fibroids.
Signs/Symptoms of fibroids
Women who have fibroids may not show any symptoms at all while others may experience mild or even severe ones. However, the following are the common symptoms of uterine fibroids;
- Heavy or prolonged menstrual periods(menses lasting for about 1 week)
- Abnormal bleeding between periods
- Weight gain and abdominal swelling which can be mistaken for pregnancy.
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Difficulty in emptying the bladder
- Frequent urination
- Low back pain or leg pain
- Pain during intercourse
- A firm mass, usually located near the middle of the pelvis which can be felt by the physician.
How to diagnose fibroids
Fibroids are often diagnosed during the normal pelvic examination procedures. The physician will be able to feel a firm mass in the abdominal area near the pelvis. In addition to abdominal examination plus medical history, other diagnostic procedures include;
- X-ray– Electromagnetic energy used to produce images of bones and internal organs onto film.
- Transvaginal ultrasound (also called ultrasonography)- An ultrasound test using a small instrument, called a transducer, that is placed in the vagina.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-A non-invasive procedure that produces a two-dimensional view of an internal organ or structure.
- Hysterosalpingography– X-ray examination of the uterus and fallopian tubes that uses dye and is often performed to rule out tubal obstruction.
- Hysteroscopy– Visual examination of the canal of the cervix and the interior of the uterus using a viewing instrument (hysteroscope) inserted through the vagina.
- Endometrial biopsy-A procedure in which a sample of tissue is obtained through a tube which is inserted into the uterus.
- Blood test-(to check for iron-deficiency anaemia if heavy bleeding is caused by the tumor).
Treatment of fibroids
Most fibroids stop growing as a woman approaches menopause.the doctors will mostly suggest ‘watchful waiting’ to ensure that the fibroids shrink with time. However, women who have large fibroids which are causing significant symptoms may require treatment based on overall health and medical history, tolerance to specific medications, desire for pregnancy and personal opinions. The common treatment for fibroids may generally include;
- Hysterectomy– Hysterectomies involve the surgical removal of the entire uterus. Fibroids remain the number one reason for hysterectomies in the United States.
- Conservative surgical therapy-Conservative surgical therapy uses a procedure called a myomectomy. With this approach, physicians will remove the fibroids, but leave the uterus intact to enable a future pregnancy.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRH agonists). This approach lowers levels of estrogen and triggers a “medical menopause.” Sometimes GnRH agonists are used to shrink the fibroid, making surgical treatment easier.
- Anti-hormonal agents-Certain drugs oppose estrogen (such as progestin and Danazol), and appear effective in treating fibroids. Anti-progestins, which block the action of progesterone, are also sometimes used.
- Uterine artery embolization-Also called uterine fibroid embolization, uterine artery embolization (UAE) is a newer minimally-invasive (without a large abdominal incision) technique. The arteries supplying blood to the fibroids are identified, then embolized (blocked off). The embolization cuts off the blood supply to the fibroids, thus shrinking them. Health care providers continue to evaluate the long-term implications of this procedure on fertility and regrowth of the fibroid tissue.
- Anti-inflammatory painkillers-This type of drug is often effective for women who experience occasional pelvic pain or discomfort.
Foods to avoid eating to eliminate or reduce risk of fibroids
The following foods are believed to eliminate fibroids once you are diagnosed or can reduce the risk of getting them altogether;
- High fat processed meats
- Conventional dairy
- Refined sugar
- Refined carbohydrates