Fibroids are a common condition affecting up to 70% of women. In decades past, removing your uterus (also known as a hysterectomy) was the only option for treating them. But, today’s era of medicine brings new treatments that are minimally invasive, offer a quicker recovery, and can help preserve your fertility. Of course, determining the right treatment for you depends on your symptoms and your personal reproductive plans. In this edition of Candid Consult, we spoke with an Axia Women’s Health provider, Dr. Geoffrey Bowers of the Center for Gynecologic Surgery, to learn more about what causes fibroids, how to identify them, and the range of new treatment options available.
Dr. Bowers explains all this and more in our interview below.
Sure. Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that grow in the muscle in the uterus. Essentially, this means that fibroids are normal tissue that grows out of control. Imagine fibroids like freckles on your skin. They’re new growths that are very common, and most of the time don’t cause any major issues.
Fibroids are very common and occur in about 40-70% of women. Some women may not experience symptoms at all. But, for the women who do experience symptoms, these usually present during their late 20s to late 40s. We also see that African American women are more likely to develop fibroids, though we don’t know exactly why. We do know that genetics play a role. So, if your mother had fibroids, you are about twice as likely to develop them.
The symptoms a woman may experience are dependent on a few factors: the size, the location, and the quantity of fibroids.
By and large, the most common symptom associated with fibroids is heavy bleeding or painful periods. You may be wondering what is considered “heavy bleeding.” This is difficult to answer, because no woman’s experience is the same. I advise women to consider how their period is affecting their day-to-day lives. If their periods are affecting their quality of life, no matter the “textbook definition” of heavy bleeding, it’s important to seek help.
Additional symptoms may include pelvic pressure, urinary frequency, abdominal bloating, or pain with sex. Lesser-known symptoms can include constipation, lower back pain, or leg pain.
A pelvic ultrasound is the best way to diagnose what’s going on. If you’re experiencing heavy bleeding, I would advise asking your provider about an ultrasound. This type of imaging can provide a greater understanding of what’s going on inside, so we can better determine next steps for treatment.
Yes, heavy bleeding can also be a symptom associated with conditions like adenomyosis, endometriosis, thyroid disorder, or endometrial polyps. In the worst and rarest cases, it can indicate the potential of cancer. An ultrasound is the best way to diagnose the root cause of your symptoms.
In the worst cases, fibroids can lead to excessive loss of blood that can require a blood transfusion. In this case, they can be life-threatening. Fibroids can also pose risk to fertility and pregnancy. Fibroids can limit the ability for a pregnancy to implant and grow within the uterus. If fibroids are located near or are obstructing the fallopian tubes, they can prevent fertilization from occurring. If fibroids develop in the cervix or in front of the uterus, they can make delivery more complicated. Overall, any fibroid that alters blood supply to the uterus can affect gestation.
How we approach treating fibroids is based on a few main factors. Namely, we consider what are the primary symptoms we need to address and what are the patient’s goals for conception and future childbearing. In the last five years many new treatments have been developed, allowing us more options to meet a patient’s specific needs.
When we think of the scope of type treatments, there are really two ends of the spectrum from birth control to hysterectomy. I’ll break down what to consider with each treatment here.
If you’re experiencing heavy bleeding, don’t be afraid to speak up. This could be a sign of an underlying health condition like fibroids. Booking an appointment with your Axia Women’s Health provider can help you take the next step towards finding relief.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bowers at one of our Center for Gynecologic Surgery centers in New Jersey, call (856) 840-8016.
For Pennsylvania area patients, you may visit our King of Prussia location or call (484) 679-5313 to learn more.
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