Uterine fibroids are a common occurrence in women, many of whom don’t even realize they have these benign tumors. For others, however, uterine fibroids can cause significant pelvic discomfort, heavy menstrual bleeding that can last for weeks, and a variety of other unpleasant symptoms.
So, what are uterine fibroids and what do you do when they’re making your life miserable?
Ali Golshan, MD, is a widely respected, double board-certified interventional radiologist who has significant expertise in treating uterine fibroids at his practice, Beach Wellness MD, in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, California.
Read what Dr. Golshan has to say about uterine fibroids and why nonsurgical uterine fibroid embolization may be your best treatment option.
Understanding the basics of uterine fibroids
Uterine fibroids are growths that develop in the uterus. Rest assured these tumors don’t increase your risk of developing uterine cancer. And, while medical science doesn’t like to say “never,” fibroids are almost always benign (noncancerous).
These growths contain smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that may remain asymptomatic and as small as a pea, or grow as large as a grapefruit and interfere with normal uterine function. You may have one fibroid or many.
Some uterine fibroids grow within the muscular uterine wall (intramural fibroids). Others bulge into the uterine cavity (submucosal) or extend outward from the uterus into the pelvic cavity (subserosal).
Science isn’t sure of the exact cause, but many women develop uterine fibroids which might be linked to:
- Hormonal activity, namely estrogen and progesterone
- Certain naturally occurring growth factors, such as insulin
If you’re willing to wait, fibroids do tend to shrink and cause fewer symptoms after menopause.
When fibroids become symptomatic
Depending on their size and location, uterine fibroids may not cause any symptoms and are often discovered “by accident” during a routine pelvic exam.
However, your doctor may suspect fibroids and order diagnostic studies, such as an ultrasound, for symptoms that can include:
- Frequent urination and/or difficulty emptying your bladder
- Heavy periods that last much longer than a week
- Unexplained pressure sensation and/or pain in the pelvic region
- Backache or leg pain
- Spotting between periods
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
These symptoms can vary in severity, worsen periodically and then fade for a time, or become constant.
Uterine fibroids can sometimes interfere with fertility and/or maintaining a healthy pregnancy. They may block fertilization, prevent an embryo from attaching to the uterine wall, or lead to miscarriage.
Treating uterine fibroids with uterine fibroid embolization
If your symptoms are problematic and otherwise disrupting your lifestyle, treatments include hormonal therapy, such as birth control pills, designed to shrink but not eliminate uterine fibroids. Surgery to remove the bothersome growths or a hysterectomy to remove the uterus are other options.
Uterine fibroid embolization, performed by an interventional radiologist, is a highly effective, nonsurgical treatment option that addresses uterine fibroids by cutting off their blood supply.
During this procedure, Dr. Golshan inserts a thin catheter into an artery near the fibroid’s blood supply. He then releases small particles through the catheter that block the blood vessels feeding the fibroid. This eliminates the blood supply to the fibroid, which contains the nutrients the growth needs to survive.
For a nonsurgical solution to uterine fibroids that’s extremely effective when performed by an expert, schedule a consultation with Dr. Golshan today. Call our office or request an appointment online.