When it comes to uterine fibroid issues, there are many questions that women want to ask their doctors. Many of these questions are about any complications from fibroids and the treatments available. And further, what each treatment option entails, how long will the side effects last, when can they resume normal activities after surgery or treatment? We’ve compiled 6 questions you should be sure to ask your doctor about uterine fibroid issues so you can have all your bases covered.
What is A Uterine Fibroid?
Fibroids are muscular tumors that develop in the uterine wall (womb). Almost all fibroids are harmless (not cancerous). Fibroids do not affect all women in the same way. Some fibroids can develop as a single tumor or as a cluster of tumors in the uterus and can range in size from an apple seed to a grapefruit. They can grow to be quite massive in exceptional circumstances. Fibroids are challenging to live with for women who do have symptoms. Some women experience discomfort and heavy menstrual bleeding. The severity of your symptoms determines treatment for uterine fibroids.
What Causes Fibroids?
We don’t know what causes fibroids to develop or shrink because no one knows for sure what causes them. We do know that both estrogen and progesterone are in charge of them. During pregnancy, when hormone levels are high, they expand quickly. When anti-hormone medication is given, they shrink. When a woman hits menopause, they also stop growing or shrink.
How do doctors know if I have uterine fibroids?
Fibroids are most commonly discovered during a physical examination. During an abdominal or pelvic exam, your doctor may feel a solid, irregular (often painless) bump. The most common scan for fibroids is ultrasound. It employs sound waves to identify fibroids, with frequencies (pitch) far higher than what the human ear can hear. A doctor or technician puts an ultrasound probe on the abdomen or into the vaginal canal to scan the uterus and ovaries. It’s quick, easy, and relatively accurate. Another option for detection is an MRI. An MRI produces an image created by magnets and radio waves. It provides your doctor with a road map of the fibroids’ size, number, and placement. We can also tell the difference between fibroids and adenomyosis, which is frequently misdiagnosed. MRI is used to confirm a diagnosis and decide the best treatment options for you.
By the time they reach 50, 70% to 80% of women will have fibroids. Women in their 40s and early 50s are the most likely to get fibroids. Fibroids do not affect all women in the same way. Some women experience discomfort and heavy menstrual bleeding. Fibroids can also impose pressure on the bladder, which causes frequent urination, or the rectum, which causes rectal pressure. If the fibroids grow to be particularly large, they might enlarge the abdomen (stomach area), making a woman appear pregnant.
Other symptoms of uterine fibroids:
- Heavy bleeding (which can be heavy enough to cause anemia) or painful periods
- Feeling of fullness in the pelvic area (lower stomach area)
- Complications during pregnancy and labor, including a six-time greater risk of cesarean section
- Reproductive problems, such as infertility, which is very rare
- Enlargement of the lower abdomen
- Frequent urination
- Pain during sex
- Lower back pain
If you have fibroids and are experiencing mild symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you take medication. Mild pain can be treated with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If you have excessive bleeding during your period, taking an iron supplement can prevent anemia or help you recover if you already have it. If you have fibroids that are causing moderate or severe symptoms, surgery may be the best option.
If you have recently developed uterine fibroids or think you might have them, here are some questions to work through with your doctor:
1 – Do I need treatment?
Not all fibroids will need treatment; some are asymptomatic and benign. Your doctor can help you determine if any symptoms you are feeling are related to fibroids or another cause. If you have fibroids but aren’t experiencing symptoms, treatment may not even be necessary.
2 – Which treatment is right for me?
Every woman will need to choose a treatment based on the severity of their uterine fibroids and the level of symptoms experienced. A simple OTC pain medication will be enough for some, but surgery may be necessary for others. Your gynecologist will give your directions on what treatment would be best for you. Hysterectomies and myomectomies are typical surgeries for fibroids needing surgical treatment, but other minimally invasive options are available.
3 – What medication can I take to treat uterine fibroids?
Your gynecologist will recommend medications or supplements based on your fertility and related goals for the future. Some medications for uterine fibroids include OTC pain medications, iron supplements, birth control, gonadotropic-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, and other oral drug therapies.
4 – Do my uterine fibroids affect my chance of getting pregnant?
You can get pregnant if you have fibroids. If you are experiencing infertility, your doctor can pinpoint if fibroids are the cause or if it is something else. Fertility is affected by many factors, and while uterine fibroids may be the cause of infertility, it might be for another reason.
5 – Will my uterine fibroids cause other complications for pregnancy?
Fibroids will make you more likely to have pregnancy complications, but this does not mean any will for sure happen. Talk to your doctor to find out about your risks. Some include for cesarean section, a breech baby, labor progression failure, placental abruption, and preterm delivery.
6 – Are my fibroids cancerous?
In almost all cases, uterine fibroids are benign. Only 1 in 1,000 women will have a fibroid turn into a cancerous growth. When a uterine fibroid does develop into cancer, it is called leiomyosarcoma. If you are worried, your doctor can do a more in-depth screening.
Schedule an Appointment to Discuss Your Uterine Fibroids
It is important to talk to a doctor about uterine fibroids. At Cool Springs OBGYN in Brentwood, Tennessee, Dr. Jeffrey Lodge, is an experienced and caring resource to help answer your questions. If you share some of the questions listed above, please contact Cool Springs OBGYN and talk to Dr. Jeffrey Lodge.