UTERINE CELLS THAT DIVIDE AND MULTIPLY
Fibroids are growths in the uterus. Sometimes, for unknown reasons, one of the muscle cells in the uterus will start to divide and multiply, forming a mass known as a fibroid.
Fibroids range in size from less than an inch across to larger than a pumpkin. They can form inside the uterus, in the wall of the uterus or on its surface.
The vast majority of fibroids are benign (not cancerous). Only about 0.1 percent of fibroid cases are cancerous, according to the National Women's Health Information Center.
If fibroids are small or don't cause any symptoms, they can usually be left alone. Several treatment options are available for more troublesome fibroids.
Mild symptoms are often treated with pain medications. Other medications, such as birth control pills and anti-hormonal drugs, may help shrink fibroids and relieve symptoms, such as heavy bleeding. The downside of most of these medications is that the fibroids grow again once you stop taking the drugs and have side effects that may make these medications inappropriate for you, says Dr. Joe Chang, obstetrician and gynecologist with The Women’s Clinic of Vancouver.
Other treatment options include:
Myomectomy. This surgery removes the fibroid while leaving the uterus intact. Depending on the size and location of the growths, this surgery may be done through an incision in the abdomen.
Uterine artery embolization. This procedure cuts off the blood supply to the fibroid, causing it to shrink or go away.
Endometrial ablation. This procedure destroys the lining of the uterus and helps control heavy bleeding, but will not treat the fibroid itself.
Hysterectomy. This surgery removes the uterus altogether.
If you have fibroids and are having symptoms, your doctor can give you more information on these treatment options and help you make a good choice.
Published January 2008.