Fibroids are the most frequently seen tumours of the female reproductive system which is also known as uterine myomas, leiomyomas, or fibromas. Fibroids are abnormal growths that develop in or on a woman’s uterus which are firm, compact tumours that are made of smooth muscle cells. Sometimes these tumours become quite large and cause severe abdominal pain and heavy periods. It is estimated that between 20 to 50 percent of women of reproductive age have fibroids, although not all are diagnosed. They cause no signs or symptoms at all. The growths are typically benign, or noncancerous. The cause of fibroids is unknown.
These tumours 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. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 80 percent of women have them by the age of 50.
However, most women don’t have any symptoms and may never know they have fibroids. Women who are approaching menopause have the greatest risk for fibroids because of their long exposure to high levels of estrogen. Women who have obese and of African-American heritage also seem to be at an increased risk, although the reasons for this are not clearly understood.
Research has also shown that some factors may protect a woman from developing fibroids. Some studies, of small numbers of women, have indicated that women who have had two liveborn children have one-half the risk of developing uterine fibroids compared to women who have had no children.
So, still, scientists are not sure of whether having children actually protected women from fibroids or whether fibroids were a factor in infertility in women who had no children. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is conducting further research on this topic and other factors that may affect the diagnosis and treatment of fibroids.
The type of fibroid a woman develops depends on its location in or on the uterus. Intramural fibroids are the most common type of fibroid. These types appear within the muscular wall of the uterus. Subserosal fibroids form on the outside of your uterus, which is called the serosa. Subserosal tumours can develop a stem, a slender base that supports a tumour. When they do, they’re known as pedunculated fibroids. Submucosal fibroids develop in the middle muscle layer, or myometrium, of your uterus. Submucosal tumours aren’t as common as the other types.
Some women who have fibroids have no symptoms, or have only mild symptoms, while other women have more severe, disruptive symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids, however, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms of uterine fibroids may include:
- Heavy or prolonged menstrual periods
- Abnormal bleeding between menstrual periods
- Pelvic pain (caused as the tumour presses on pelvic organs)
- Frequent urination
- Low back pain
- Pain during intercourse
- A firm mass, often located near the middle of the pelvis, which can be felt by the physician
For a proper diagnosis, you’ll need to see a gynaecologist for getting a pelvic exam. This exam is used to check the condition, size, and shape of your uterus. You may also need other tests, which include:
- X-ray. Electromagnetic energy used to produce images of bones and internal organs onto film.
- Ultrasonography. An ultrasound test using a small instrument called a transducer, that is placed in the vagina.
- 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. It has been done in order to check for iron-deficiency anaemia if heavy bleeding is caused by a tumour. There lies certainly homely remedies which one can practice in order to recover fibroids that include yoga, massage, applying heat for cramps etc. Dietary changes can help as well. Avoid meats and high-calorie foods.