Uterine fibroids are muscular tumors that grow on the walls of the uterus. Most of the time, fibroids don’t cause symptoms. In some cases, however, they can grow large enough to cause pain, irregular periods and even fertility problems.
Many women with fibroids experience severe enough symptoms that they require specialized treatment.
The Fibroid Treatment Center at Georgia Vascular Institute in Stockbridge, Georgia offers multiple diagnostic and treatment options for women suffering from uterine fibroids.
Today, we’re answering some of the most common questions patients with fibroids may have.
What Causes Uterine Fibroids?
Fibroids are caused by a number of factors.
Estrogen and progesterone (natural hormones that spur the development of the uterine lining during the menstrual cycle) are thought to contribute to the formation of fibroids. This is because estrogen and progesterone markers are higher in fibroid tissue than in normal uterine tissue.
Other factors, such as insulin-like growth factor, genetics, and stress, can also contribute to the growth of fibroids.
Typically, fibroids improve after menopause, as the amount of reproductive hormones in the body naturally decreases.
Are There Different Kinds of Uterine Fibroids?
There are four types of uterine fibroids:
Intramural fibroids are the most common types of fibroids. They grow between the muscles of the uterine wall.
Suberosal fibroids develop on the muscles of the outer uterine wall. This allows them to grow outward, potentially pressing on other organs. This can cause pelvic pain and pressure and abdominal heaviness.
Submucosal fibroids are the least common type of fibroid, developing just beneath the uterine lining and can protrude into the uterus.
Pedunculated fibroids are attached to the uterus by stalk-like growths that can sometimes become twisted.
What Are the Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?
Many women with fibroids experience no symptoms and require no treatment. Sometimes, however, fibroids grow large enough to cause symptoms that interfere with a person’s life.
The most common symptoms of fibroids include:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Periods that last longer than 7 days
- Abnormal bleeding between periods
- Pelvic pain
- Pelvic pressure
- Painful intercourse
- Frequent urination
- Abdominal pain
- Pain in the lower back
- Pain in the bowel or rectum
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to visit your doctor. He or she can help you find treatment options or refer you to a doctor who specializes in the treatment of uterine fibroids.
Are Uterine Fibroids Cancerous?
The majority of fibroids are benign. In fact, only about 1 in 1000 fibroids is cancerous.
When a fibroid is cancerous, it is known as a leiomyosarcoma.
How Are Uterine Fibroids Diagnosed?
Uterine fibroids can be diagnosed through a number of tests and exams.
Because the tumors can change the shape and size of the uterus, irregularities in the uterus can often be felt during a routine pelvic exam.
Even if fibroids are not detectable during a pelvic exam, many women still have symptoms. In these cases, doctors may recommend other diagnostic measures, such as ultrasound and MRI, to diagnose fibroids.
How Are Uterine Fibroids Treated?
There isn’t a single treatment for managing fibroid symptoms that works for every woman. It’s important to track your own symptoms and talk with your doctor about the best approach for you.
Many women who are diagnosed with fibroids are scared of needing a hysterectomy to get relief from their symptoms. Fortunately, hysterectomy is no longer necessary for most women. In fact,the number of treatments developed to relieve fibroid symptoms has soared over the last few years.
There are currently numerous other treatment options for fibroid symptoms, including:
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist – The medications work by blocking the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones that contribute to the growth of fibroids. Treatment with GnRH agonists is brief. Long-term treatment can cause side effects like hot flashes and bone loss. Fibroids typically grow back quickly once treatment is stopped. Typically, GnRH medications are used to stop excessive bleeding or to shrink fibroids in preparation for surgery.
- Intrauterine devices that release progestin – The progestin in an IUD can help control heavy bleeding associated with fibroids. IUDs do not shrink fibroids.
- Myomectomy – A myomectomy removes fibroid tissue from the wall of the uterus while leaving the uterus intact. Fibroid tissue is removed through a surgical incision in the lower abdomen.
- Hysterectomy – A hysterectomy completely removes the uterus. As it is a major surgery, most women require significant downtime.
- Uterine fibroid embolization (also known as uterine artery embolization) – This minimally invasive, outpatient procedure can help relieve a variety of fibroid-related symptoms, including heavy bleeding and severe pelvic pain.
During a uterine fibroid embolization, a fluoroscope is used to send small particles (embolic agents) into the uterine arteries using a thin tube called a catheter. These particles block blood flow to uterine fibroids, causing them to shrink.
UFE has a number of benefits. It doesn’t disturb the tissues of the uterus, so fertility is not affected. Additionally, fibroids don’t regrow after a UFE procedure, as they sometimes do with more invasive procedures like myomectomy.
Georgia Vascular Institute in Stockbridge is one of Georgia’s leading providers of uterine fibroid embolization.
Dr. Kevin Carson at Georgia Vascular Institute was one of the first doctors to perform uterine fibroid embolization in the Southern Crescent. His expertise earned him the honor of being named a top doctor by his fellow physicians at Southern Regional Medical Center in 2005.
The Fibroid Treatment Center at Georgia Vascular Institute
Are you searching for fibroid treatment in Atlanta? The Fibroid Center at Georgia Vascular Institute can help you.
Contact us today at (770) 506-4007 to learn more about our fibroid treatments or schedule your appointment today.