One of the most common benign tumors in women, uterine fibroids (also known as leiomyomas or myomas) develop in the uterus most typically during the childbearing years. Several different types of fibroids can develop in various places in and around the uterus:
- Submucosal fibroids develop under the inner lining of the uterus, distorting the normal contour of the cavity.
- Intramural fibroids grow within the uterine wall and can also eventually distort the shape of the uterus.
- Subserosal fibroids grow on the outside of the uterus, and can press on surrounding organs.
Linked to hormone levels, the growth of fibroids usually diminishes with the onset of menopause.
Uterine Fibroids Symptoms
Some women may have only one fibroid; others may have several in different locations in the uterus. While small fibroids may cause few problem-causing symptoms, larger ones may lead to heavy bleeding and severe pain especially at your time of the month. Other signs of this condition include:
- Abdominal pressure or bulging
- Urinary issues (frequent urination/retention) due to pressure on the bladder
- Lower back pain
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Anemia brought on by heavy bleeding
- Infertility and pregnancy issues
Quality of life concerns may arise with severe symptoms, causing some women to limit their physical and social activities due to fear of soiling their clothes due to excessive bleeding and/or discomfort.
Uterine Fibroids Diagnosis and Treatment
Your NorthShore specialist will ask about your medical history, review prior records, conduct a focused pelvic exam and may order ultrasound and/or magnetic resonance imaging to confirm your diagnosis.
At the Center for Pelvic Health, our physicians have extensive experience treating fibroids and are committed to addressing specific health concerns—from preserving fertility to improving quality of life. We have conducted multicenter clinical research trials to improve management of these disorders.
Nonsurgical approaches for patients with mild symptoms may include “watchful waiting,” nonprescription over-the-counter medication to reduce pain and/or hormone treatments such as birth control pills to help shrink the size of your fibroids and minimize symptoms.
A nonsurgical minimally invasive technique, Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a procedure involving the injection of embolizing agents to block off the blood supply fueling the growth of your fibroid(s). Performed by NorthShore’s Interventional Radiology (IR) team, this advanced approach specifically targets the uterine growths. The uterus and ovaries remain unaffected. The Center for Pelvic Health team works collaboratively with our IR colleagues, providing referrals for patients who might be good candidates for UFE.
Fibroids may also be removed surgically. Our fellowship-trained surgeons are skilled in the most advanced laparoscopic and minimally invasive “fertility” sparing techniques:
- Myomectomy involves the removal of fibroids only without affecting your uterus, especially important for future family planning. Depending on the size of your fibroids, this procedure can be done as an open surgical procedure or with minimally invasive techniques that offer less pain, quicker recovery and smaller incisions. At NorthShore, our specialists have extensive experience performing laparoscopic myomectomies. For select candidates, we may also robotic assistance for laparoscopic surgery. A hysteroscopic myomectomy may be recommended for the removal of submucosal fibroids due to their particular shape and location within the uterine cavity. An transvaginal procedure, hysteroscopy uses thin tools inserted through the vaginal and cervix to access the uterus.
- Hysterectomy involves the complete removal of the uterus and along with it your fibroids. Leading to the permanent end of your menstrual cycles and ability to naturally bear children, a hysterectomy is not for everyone but is one option for treating fibroids. It might be a good solution if your fibroids have grown much larger, become more painful and/or are resulting in heavier bleeding. The Center for Pelvic Health’s specialists has expertise in performing minimally invasive laparoscopic hysterectomies (with and without removing the cervix).
For More Information
To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 847.926.6544.