The most common tumor growth of the female reproductive system is fibroid. Fibroid is a firm mass of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissues of the uterus. Research shows that about 40% to 70% women of child bearing age develop fibroid in their lifetime, however, only about 33% are large enough to be detected. Fortunately, almost all of the fibroid tumors are benign (non-cancerous).
Although the causes of fibroid growth are not clearly understood, it is suspected that each fibroid growth originates from a rogue muscle cell in the uterus. This rogue muscle cell then multiplies very quickly with the help of estrogen.
Pre-menopausal women are at the highest risk of developing fibroids due to their long term exposure to estrogen, however, it is also known that this risk is halved in women who have at least given birth to two live born infants.
Women suffering with fibroids may either have no symptoms, mild symptoms, or severe symptoms necessitating surgery. The predominant symptom of uterine fibroids is heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding. Other symptoms include bleeding between periods, pelvic pain, low back pain and painful intercourse.
- Physical examination by your doctor
- Ultrasound scan
- CT / MRI scan may be required
Fibroids can shrink or stop growing with hormonal medication, so initially conservative treatment is done with monitoring at regular intervals. If these conservative measures fail and the symptoms fail to subside, then surgical intervention becomes necessary to remove the fibroid. In case the woman is of childbearing age, the intervention is limited to removing the fibroid in order to preserve fertility. However, if the woman has achieved menopause, then surgery can include removal of the entire uterus (hysterectomy).
A new method is used nowadays called uterine artery embolization which is a minimally invasive procedure which requires a very small incision. This method works by blocking (embolising) the blood supply to the fibroid thus shrinking it.