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Rhonda Reeves | 5 facts about fibroids

Published:Wednesday | June 15, 2016 | 6:01 AM

If you have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids or suspect your symptoms may be caused by a fibroid, you may have a lot of questions about what they are and how they can be treated. Fibroids are smooth muscle tumours (growths) of the uterus and the symptoms vary, depending on where in the uterus they are located.

Though exactly what causes fibroids is unknown, here are five facts we do know about fibroids.

1. By age 50, nearly half of all women will be

diagnosed with fibroids

Twenty per cent of women of reproductive age will have fibroids, but women of African descent have a higher incidence of fibroid formation (up to 50 per cent). It is uncommon for fibroids to develop before age 30, and they can resolve or become less bothersome during menopause. This means it mostly affects women during their fertile years.

2. Fibroids do not always cause symptoms

Fibroids do not always cause symptoms, so sometimes they are diagnosed incidentally. Not all fibroids that are asymptomatic (not causing symptoms) require treatment or medical intervention. If fibroids do cause symptoms, how it affects your health, quality of life, and also where in the uterus they are located will determine which treatment option is best for you.

3. There are different types of fibroids

Fibroids can grow inside or outside of any part of the uterus. Fibroids are named based on where in the uterus they are located. Submucosal (in the endometrium), intramural (in the muscular wall), and subserosal (on the surface). If they grow on a stalk, they are considered pedunculated fibroids.

4. Fibroids are rarely cancerous

Fibroids are benign tumors which are rarely cancerous. Though uncommon, there are times when a fibroid may actually be a cancerous tumour. The risk is small, but if you have risk factors for a uterine cancer (cancer of the uterus), or it is suspected that your fibroid may be cancerous, consult with your gynaecologist regarding diagnosis, as treatment will be required.

5. There are several treatment options for fibroids besides a hysterectomy

A hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) for fibroids is one of the most invasive treatment options, while a wait-and-see approach is the most conservative option. In-between these choices are non-surgical options like a hormone containing intrauterine contraceptive device, and medications which help reduce the symptoms caused by the fibroids. There are minimally invasive procedures such as endometrial ablation or uterine artery embolisation as another form of treatment; and then there is a myomectomy, which is removing the fibroids from the uterus.

To determine which fibroid treatment option is best for you, share your symptoms with your gynaecologist.

- Dr Rhonda Reeves is the obstetrician/gynaecologist at Southdale Medical & Gynae Centre, Shop 6, Southdale Plaza. Email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com