Fibroid tumor is a common abnormal mass of tissue or a benign growth, found mostly in the pelvis or the uterus. It usually forms between the ages of 35 to 45 years. Fibroid tumors do not occur before puberty and heal after menopause. A fibroid is most common in the uterus and contains smooth muscles, held together by fibrous tissue. Although the cause for the development of fibroids is still unknown, it is believed to have relation with the hormone, estrogen.
It has been seen that women taking estrogen supplements for the lack of hormone are more likely to grow fibroids. On the other hand, many women who already have fibroids, show completely normal estrogen level in the body. This proves that estrogen can be a reason for it, but not always. In most cases, women do not even realize that they have a fibroid growing inside their body, till the time some symptoms appear.
There are some symptoms which might show in case you have a fibroid. On experiencing them, it is advised to consult a doctor, to confirm the cause of worry. Some of the common symptoms of having a fibroid include:
- Very heavy menstrual bleeding and extended monthly periods, sometimes with clots
- Frequent soiling events due to excessive menstrual bleeding
- Anemia and fatigue, caused due to excessive due blood loss and low red blood count
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Pressure on the bladder, leading to a constant need to urinate or incontinence
- Pain in the back of the legs
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pressure during bowel movement, leading to constipation and/or bloating
- An enlarged abdomen, which may be mistaken for weight gain or pregnancy
To diagnose a fibroid, the patient initially goes through a pelvic exam. Most of the fibroids are found, when the doctor is looking for something else. In some cases, identifying the fibroid can be quite difficult; especially when an ovarian cyst develops near the ovary. This can lead to the cyst being confused with the fibroid. An ultrasound can enable the physician to distinguish between these tumors.
However, the results produced by the ultrasound are not always accurate. In case ovarian tumors develop, which resemble the fibroids, the sound waves can be interfered by the fibrous tissues of the tumor. Thus, the only way to be sure about the existence of the fibroid is through operation. However, the operation is only conducted when the patient shows relevant symptoms and the doctor is also convinced about the same.
The treatment of the fibroid depends upon a number of factors like the size of the fibroid, its location, sudden enlargement, increased bleeding and pain.
When the problem caused by the fibroid is severe, the doctor averts to surgery. There are two types of surgery which can be conducted for the treatment, the selection of which depends on the age of the women, the symptoms and her preferences. The two surgical processes are Myomectomy and Hysterectomy.
- Myomectomy is the surgical removal of each tumor, without disturbing or damaging the uterus. It is preferred for young women, who have not completed their family and need to reproduce.
- Hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus itself to get rid of the fibroids. It is preferred when the tumors are too large or excessive bleeding is caused or the fibroids interfere with other organs and most important, when the woman has completed her family.
Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE)
In this technique, the small beads of a compound, called polyvinyl alcohol, are injected through a catheter into the arteries that feed the fibroid. These beads obstruct the blood supply to the fibroid and starve it of blood and oxygen. This technique is not frequently used and is still under consideration for regular use.
The medical treatment for the fibroid involves prescription of drugs which stop the production of estrogen in the body. These medications are given for a period of three to five months and can significantly shrink the size of the fibroid up to 50 percent.