What are fibroids?
Fibroids are non-cancerous (benign) growths in the wall of the uterus. Some may be small and cause no symptoms. Others may become large and cause severe abdominal pain and heavy periods.
The three main types of fibroids are:
- Intramural fibroids: These develop within the uterine wall and expand, making the uterus feel larger than normal. Intramural fibroids are the most common type and may cause heavier menstrual flow and pelvic pain.
- Submucosal fibroids: These fibroids are located deep within the uterus, under the lining of the uterine cavity. This type of fibroid is the least common, and often causes symptoms such as heavy periods.
- Subserosal fibroids: These fibroids develop in the outer portion of the uterus and expand upward.
What are the symptoms of fibroids?
Women with fibroids may develop one or more of these symptoms:
- Bladder pressure and a constant urge to urinate
- Bowel pressure, constipation, and bloating
- Enlarged abdomen
- Heavy or prolonged periods, sometimes with clots
- Pain during sex
- Pain in the back or legs
- Pelvic pain
- Pelvic pressure or heaviness
How are fibroids diagnosed?
Your doctor will first perform a pelvic exam to determine if the uterus is enlarged. We also may use radiology tests such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) to confirm the presence, location, and size of the fibroids.
What are my fibroid treatment options?
Treatment options range from medication therapy to gynecologic surgery. We base treatment recommendations on your age, family planning goals, type of fibroids, and the impact of fibroid symptoms on your health and daily life.
- Medications: Drug therapy is usually the first step for fibroid treatment. Medications may include hormone therapy including birth control pills. Hormone medications reduce the size of the fibroids and decrease symptoms, but the fibroids often grow again when drug therapy is discontinued. The doctor also may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to manage the pain sometimes caused by fibroids.
- Minimally invasive surgical treatment options: Our gynecologists offer many types of minimally invasive gynecologic treatment for fibroids that have grown large or are causing severe symptoms. If you are of child-bearing age, a myomectomy removes the fibroids while saving the uterus to allow future pregnancies. Minimally invasive hysterectomy, which removes the uterus, results in a permanent cure for fibroids.
- Non-surgical advanced treatment options: Uterine artery embolization blocks the blood supply to the fibroids. Endometrial ablation destroys (ablates) the lining of the uterus (endometrium). Both result in a permanent cure.
Researchers at Henry Ford are also investigating new treatments for fibroids that don't require removing the uterus. Learn more about the TRUST (Treatment Results of Uterine Sparing Technologies) study and how to participate.