Fibroid tumors are benign growths that appear on the muscular wall of the uterus. They are the most common tumors of the body. You may hear them called other names like leiomyoma, leiomyomata, or myoma. They range in size from microscopic to masses that fill the entire abdominal cavity. In some cases they can be as large as a full term pregnancy. They can affect women of all ages, but are most common in women ages 40 to 50. In most cases, there is more than one fibroid in the uterus consisting of dense fibrous tissue, being nourished and sustained by the uterine arteries.
Common symptoms of fibroids include heavy vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain and pressure that can cause discomfort and difficulty preforming physical activities. Back pain from fibroids is generally caused by large fibroids pressing against the muscles and nerves of the spine. Back pain is an uncommon symptom of fibroids, so before seeking treatment for fibroids to relieve back pain, you should consider the following information about fibroids and back pain.
Fibroids can cause the uterus to change shape, which can decrease fertility. Intramural (located in the wall of the uterus) and submucosal (located on the inside of the uterus, bulging inward) fibroids can lead to problems with fertility and sometimes may lead to miscarriage.
We at the Fibroid Treatment Collective, observed an interesting phenomenon in the late 1990s five years after we introduced uterine artery embolization (UAE) to the U.S. in 1994. Women who had been our fibroid patients in previous years, returned in their early 50s to have UAE. We were curious why they waited to have UAE, so we asked about it. They all had the same story. They first came to us in their late 40s, and thought that UAE was an excellent procedure, but they were convinced that menopause would shrink the fibroids. However, almost every patient returned during menopause with bigger fibroids.
Some of the symptoms caused by fibroids may also include warning signs of cancer within the reproductive system. Bleeding may be a sign of cancer of the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, or of the cervix. Often a simple biopsy or an ultrasound will reassure a woman that unusual or heavy bleeding is indeed caused by benign fibroid tumors. While a slowly enlarging uterus is also typically a sign of fibroids, it is important to have a doctor confirm this with appropriate tests. Rapid growth in the size of the uterus may signal a cancer, either of the uterus or of the ovaries.
Endometriosis is a hormonal disease. The endometrium, instead of passing through the vagina with the monthly menstruation, may implant on structures inside the abdominal cavity, most commonly the ovary. This tissue is stimulated monthly, as if it was inside the uterus. Endometriosis may cause scarring, pain, pressure and infertility, many of the same symptoms as fibroids. Endometriosis often exists in the same patient who has fibroids. It’s important to know that embolization is not a cure for endometriosis.
Adenomyosis is often called the cousin of endometriosis. This is because the same tissue, the endometrium, passes into the wall, or myometrium of the uterus. This condition often looks like fibroids and will cause similar symptoms. Some patients experience both adenomyosis and fibroids. Again, embolization does not cure adenomyosis.
Other conditions, such as ovarian cysts or infections, may exist. Consult your doctor to make sure all your symptoms are a result of fibroid tumors.