If you’re a woman who has been told that you have fibroids, you’re not alone. These muscular tumors in the wall of the uterus are very common in women of childbearing age. By age 50, up to 70 percent of white women and 90 percent of African-American women may have fibroids. After menopause, the tumors usually shrink.
“Fibroids are fairly common, but many women don’t experience symptoms from them,” says Dr. Daniel Donato, gynecologic oncological surgeon at Rose Medical Center. “If you do, you should talk with your doctor about the best treatment options for you.”
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Painful periods
- Feeling of fullness in the lower belly
- Pain during sex
- Low back pain
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Problems during labor and delivery
If you aren’t having symptoms, you may not need treatment. But if your fibroids are causing problems, several treatment options are available.
To manage milder symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medication such as:
- Pain relievers (such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen) to ease mild pain
- Hormonal birth control (such as certain birth control pills or the Mirena IUD) to reduce heavy bleeding during periods
- Iron supplements to prevent anemia caused by heavy periods
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists to treat anemia or shrink fibroids before surgery
If you have more severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure, such as:
- Myomectomy to remove fibroids while leaving the rest of the uterus intact—a good choice for women who want to become pregnant later
- Hysterectomy to remove the uterus
- Endometrial ablation to destroy the lining of the uterus, which reduces heavy bleeding during periods
- Myolysis to destroy fibroids with an electric current or freezing
- Uterine fibroid embolization to block the blood supply to fibroids, which causes them to shrink
The choice of procedure depends on the size, location and number of your fibroids as well as whether you want to have children in the future. Talk with your doctor about which treatment option is right for you.