Some women who have fibroids are symptom-free while others have serious side effects. Treatment for fibroids needs to take into account a variety of factors including whether or not the patient wants to be able to have children in the future.
Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in or on a woman’s uterus, or womb. Many women who have fibroids do not have any symptoms and are unaware of the tumors unless their doctor discovers them during a regular check-up. Possible symptoms include:
• Heavy bleeding or painful periods – Excessive bleeding from fibroids can cause anemia. Periods may last longer than normal and may include large clots. There can also be bleeding between normal periods.
• Feeling of fullness – The pelvic area or abdomen may feel full. Constipation and gas may also be present.
• Large abdomen – Large fibroids may cause the uterus to stretch, giving the appearance of pregnancy.
• Frequent need to urinate – Fibroids pressing on the bladder may cause the need to urinate more often, or may block urine from flowing freely, preventing the bladder from emptying completely.
• Pain during sex
• Lower back pain
During an annual pelvic exam, the doctor may note that the uterus is enlarged or lumpy, which may mean fibroids are present. The doctor may schedule an ultrasound or MRI to confirm the diagnosis. It is very rare for fibroids to become cancerous, but a biopsy can be done to make sure cancer is not present.
The need for treatment depends on a variety of factors including age, what symptoms are present, and whether the woman wants to get pregnant or not. Treatment for fibroid symptoms may include:
• Birth control pills – Oral contraceptives can help control the symptoms of heavy periods, as can IUDs (intrauterine devices) that release hormones directly into the uterus.
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