Fibroids are noncancerous (benign) growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. While fibroids do not always cause symptoms, their size and location can lead to problems for some women.
The number of women who have fibroids increases with age until menopause. Twenty to 40 percent of women ages 35 and older have uterine fibroids of a significant size. African-American women are at a higher risk: as many as 50 percent have fibroids of a significant size. It is not known why, although genetic variability is thought to be a factor.
Most fibroids don't cause symptoms. However, depending on size, locations and number of fibroids, they may cause:
- Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods, which an lead to anemia
- Pelvic pain and pressure
- Pain in the back and legs
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Bladder pressure leading to a frequent urge to urinate
- Pressure on the bowel, leading to constipation and bloating
- Abnormally enlarged abdomen
There are medical, surgical and minimally invasive options to treat uterine fibroids.
- Medical treatments may include pain medications such as ibuprofen, birth control pills and hormone treatments.
- Surgical procedures may include myomectomy (removal of the fibroid tumor) or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and possibly ovaries).
- Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally-invasive, non-surgical way to shrink fibroids.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
At the University of Maryland, UFE is performed by highly-experienced interventional radiologists. The procedure involves passing a spaghetti-sized tube through a tiny nick in the skin near the groin, into the arteries that feed blood to the uterus. Medications is injected into these arteries to selectively block the blood flow to the fibroids, causing them to gradually shrink over time. This is done using moderate sedation, though most women choose to watch the procedure on the monitor as it is performed.