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What are fibroids?

Fibroids are non-cancerous (benign) tumors that grow from the muscle layers of the uterus (womb). Fibroids are the most frequently seen tumors of the female reproductive system. Fibroids, also known as uterine myomas, leiomyomas, or fibromas, are firm, compact tumors that are made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that develop in the uterus. The singular of uterine fibroids is Uterine Fibroma.

It is estimated that between 20 to 50 percent of women of reproductive age have fibroids, although not all are diagnosed. Some estimates state that up to 30 to 77 percent of women will develop fibroids sometime during their childbearing years, although only about one-third of these fibroids are large enough to be detected by a health care provider during a physical examination.

What are fibroids

In more than 99 percent of fibroid cases, the tumors are benign (non-cancerous). These tumors are not associated with cancer and do not increase a woman's risk for uterine cancer. They may range in size, from the size of a pea to the size of a softball or small grapefruit.

Overweight and obese women are at significantly higher risk of developing fibroids, compared to women of normal weight.

Malignant (cancerous) growths on the smooth muscles inside the womb can develop, called leiomyosarcoma of the womb. However, this is extremely rare.

What causes fibroid tumors?

It is not clearly known what causes fibroids, it is believed that each tumor develops from an aberrant muscle cell in the uterus, which multiplies rapidly because of the influence of estrogen.

  • Hormones

  • Estrogen and progesterone are the hormones produced by the ovaries. They cause the uterine lining to regenerate during each menstrual cycle and may stimulate the growth of fibroids.
  • Family History

  • Fibroids may run in the family. If your mother, sister, or grandmother has a history of this condition, you may develop it as well.
  • Pregnancy

  • Pregnancy increases the production of estrogen and progesterone in your body. Fibroids may develop and grow rapidly while you are pregnant.

What symptoms do fibroids cause?

Most fibroids cause no symptoms at all. Depending on their size, location and number, fibroids can become significantly problematic.

Some common symptoms associated with fibroids include:

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding, heavy or long periods
  • Bulk and pressure symptoms
  • Bladder pressure, frequent urination
  • Rectal pressure, constipation
  • Infertility or recurrent miscarriages/pregnancy loss
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Pain
  • Anemia
  • Heavy bleeding or increased flow
  • Clotting
  • Cramps
  • Abdominal pressure
  • Irregular and painful periods
  • Bloating
  • Indigestion
  • Urinary frequency
  • Constipation
  • Painful intercourse
  • Back pain
  • Pressure in the legs
  • PMS
  • Fatigue

How are Fibroid Tumors diagnosed?

Fibroids are usually detected on the basis of clinical findings during the annual pelvic exam, but are usually diagnosed via ultrasounds, MRI and CT Scan. Although ultrasound is the most common and inexpensive method of diagnosis, it is not the most accurate and many smaller tumors can go undetected. If the patient has extensive fibroid tumor disease with multiple and large tumors, MRI is the most accurate test and can clearly delineate size, number and location of most fibroids.

Fertility and Fibroids

Fertility outcomes with fibroids are dependent on the size, number and location of the tumors. In general, only -12% of fibroids are associated with primary infertilty so most women can have uncomplicated pregnancies with these tumors, and research has shown that if conception takes place only 10-15% of women will have complications with pregnancy.

Submucosal and intracavity tumors are an example of those that can produce complications and even pregnancy loss. Intracavity fibroids are in direct competition for space within the endometrial cavity with a developing fetus. This can create obstacles to development and miscarriage can occur.

Submucosal tumors by nature of their location near the lining can also contribute to infertility by inhibiting implanation of the fertilitzed egg. Fundal fibroids are known to block fallopian tubes and are therefore a primary source of infertility by preventing conception.

No matter what type, the longer fibroid tumors are left untreated, the greater the chance of infertility.

Note: The video tag is not supported in Internet Explorer 8 and earlier versions.

In this video, Dr. Vijayavel performed laparascopy on a patient who had multiple fibroid tumors and how he safely removed all of them.

She now is living a happy healthy tumor free life while retaining her uterus.

Laparoscopic myomectomy is a technique used to remove fibroids that are intramural (deep in the muscle of the uterine wall), subserosal or pedunculated (on the outside of the uterus). This minimally invasive technique uses a laparoscopic technique to remove the fibroids through very small incisions. It is a day surgery procedure (you typically leave the hospital 1-2 hours after the completion of the procedure) with a 1-2 week recovery period.

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