Fibroid tumours (also called myomas or leiomyomas) are solid growths that can appear in or around the uterus. Usually, these growths are not cancerous and do not offer cause for worry. Very often women who have fibroids do not even know that they have them. It is only when the woman suffers heavy or irregular periods, painful cramps or infrequent urination that the existence of fibroids may be suspected. Other symptoms or signs include suffering of pain during intercourse and pressure or pain in the abdomen or lower back.
Fibroids are a fairly common condition, affecting one in every four women. Women above 35 are most susceptible to this condition. What causes fibroids to appear is still shadowed by doubt, but it is believed that the hormone estrogen might have something to do with it. This theory receives credence when you realise that fibroids begin to grow at puberty when a woman's body starts producing estrogen. It begins to automatically shrink in size when a woman reaches menopause and her body stops producing estrogen. Although fibroids shrink at the onset of menopause when a woman's body stops producing estrogen, it must be remembered that if a woman resorts to Hormone Replacement Therapy, the fibroids would continue to grow.
As far as size is concerned, fibroids could range from that of a pea to that of a grapefruit. Usually, it is the number of fibroids, their size and location that determine the effect on the woman.
Fibroids grow very slowly. However, their size increases rapidly during pregnancy (they usually shrink after childbirth) or when a woman takes birth control pills.
A doctor can usually feel the fibroids during a pelvic exam. Other ways to confirm the diagnosis would be to go through X-rays and ultrasounds.
Unless the fibroids cause a lot of pain, they may be left alone. Treatment is, in most cases, not necessary. However, while fibroids almost never become cancerous (incidences are rare), they can cause infertility. Therefore, a woman who would like to have children should ensure that the fibroids are removed so as not to affect her pregnancy. The treatment is also recommended for those who suffer painful symptoms or excessive bleeding. Women who want to get pregnant are advised to go in for myomectomy, a relatively new field of surgery in which the fibroids are removed but the uterus is left intact. Unfortunately, the side effects include a decrease in fertility because of scar tissues. There is also a fear that the fibroids might grow back as they could not be completely removed.
If the fibroids are very large or if they are blocking the bowel or urinary functioning, doctors advise a hysterectomy instead. It is, therefore, essential to consult a doctor (even get a second opinion for purposes of confirming the diagnosis) in case one suspects the incidence of fibroids.
Fibroids do not generally offer cause for worry. But if you suffer a lot of pain, it might be a good idea to consult your doctor. In the end, it might save you a lot of pain and stress.