Your uterus is lined with smooth muscle cells that support pregnancy and labor. Sometimes these cells can grow out of control, causing you to develop a mass on the wall of your uterus called a uterine fibroid.
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids, sometimes called leiomyomas, are growths (tumors) made up of the muscle and connective tissue from the wall of the uterus. These fibroids are almost always benign, meaning they're not cancerous. Uterine fibroids can be so small they can't be detected or can grow as large as a grapefruit (or larger). Doctors most often find fibroids during a normal physical exam when they press on the uterus.
Some women may never have symptoms of uterine fibroids. Others, however, may have severe uterine fibroid symptoms that impact their daily lives, including:
- Long or heavy periods
- Bleeding between periods
- Pelvic or lower back pain
- Frequent urination
- Pain during sex
Causes of uterine fibroids
Uterine fibroids are very common and affect up to 77 percent of women at some point in their lives. In 99 percent of cases, uterine fibroids are benign, but they can be painful. While the exact cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, it’s commonly been linked to:
- Hormone imbalance
- Genetic and growth changes
- Extracellular matrix (ECM)
People at increased risk for developing uterine fibroids include those who:
- Are over 30 years old
- Have been pregnant
- Are Vitamin D deficient
- Have a family history of uterine fibroids
Diagnosis and testing for uterine fibroids
There is a variety of diagnostic tools available to your care provider. When screening for possible uterine fibroids, you may undergo:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Treatment options for uterine fibroids
Depending on the severity of your uterine fibroid symptoms, possible treatments include:
- Laparoscopic/Robotic myomectomy breaks fibroids into smaller pieces and removes them from a small abdominal incision.
- Hysteroscopic myomectomy is a procedure for fibroids located solely inside the uterus. Your surgeon removes them with instruments inserted through your vagina and cervix.
- Hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus, should only be offered for women not interested in or who have completed childbearing.
- Uterine artery embolization is a technique used to shrink fibroids and relieve painful symptoms. Your provider injects small particles called embolic agents into the uterine arteries, cutting off blood flow to fibroids, causing them to shrink and die.
Next steps for patient
If you’d like to meet with a provider and find the best possible care options, it’s time to reach out to Main Line Health. Schedule a visit with a specialist today.
Women’s health care at Main Line Health
Our specialists provide the latest technological advancements with expertise and compassion—working to find the best possible treatment while prioritizing your comfort and peace of mind throughout the care journey.
At Main Line Health, you’ll have access to:
- Advanced gynecology program— provides patients with collaborative, advanced treatments for complex benign gynecologic conditions. Our multidisciplinary team can meet your individual care needs through comprehensive evaluation and developing personalized treatment plans.
- Excellence in gynecological care—including treatment for serious gynecological issues, at locations that are close to home and easy to access.
- Physicians near you—who provide a full range of general and specialized gynecologic services for women, from yearly well-woman exams and cancer screenings to highly specialized procedures—including advanced laparoscopic, hysteroscopic and robotic approaches.
- Main Line Health's Philadelphia area hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital offer comprehensive women's health services to meet your needs and those of your family. Our healthcare experts are uniquely qualified to address the special concerns of women.