What are Fibroids ?
Fibroids are tumours that grow in the womb. They are typically benign (non-cancerous). They can vary greatly in size and can affect up to 80% of women over 50 years of age. There are four types of fibroids –
- Intramural: This is the most common type. This fibroid is embedded in the muscular wall of the womb.
- Sub-serosal fibroids: These extend beyond the wall of the womb and grow within the surrounding outer uterine tissue layer. They can develop into pedunculated fibroids, where the fibroid has a stalk and can become quite large.
- Submucosal fibroids: This type can push into the cavity of the womb. It is usually found in the muscle beneath the inner lining of the wall.
- Cervical fibroids: Cervical fibroids take root in the neck of the womb, known as the cervix.
Not all fibroids are symptomatic. In fact, only 1 in 3 women experience any symptoms at all. Symptoms may range from mild abdominal pain to heavy menstrual periods, lower back pain, constipation, frequent micturition and pain during intercourse (dyspareunia). More severe and chronic complications include pregnancy problems, fertility problems, repeated miscarriages and labour problems.
Once a fibroid develops, it continues to increase in size until the woman reaches menopause. The main reason for increase in size is the continuous production of ovarian hormones which ceases once menopause is attained. The exact cause for development is unknown but again there is a strong genetic and hereditary component. Environmental factors like red meat, alcohol etc have also been implicated.
Treatment for fibroids is recommended only in symptomatic cases. Both medical and surgical modalities of treatment are available. While medical management is the most common treatment modality, for refractory cases, surgery is performed.