Understanding Uterine Fibroids and Their Impact on Your Health
Anatomy of Your Uterus
Your uterus is a thick-walled muscular organ, also known as the womb. The uterus is the primary organ in the reproductive system in a woman’s body, naturally expanding to accommodate a growing fetus during pregnancy.
The uterus is composed of three layers of tissue:
- Peritoneum – a double layered membrane continuous with the abdominal tissues.
- Myometrium – the thick smooth muscle layer that expands during pregnancy in preparation to expel the fetus at birth.
- Endometrium – an inner mucous membrane lining the uterus that sheds and regenerates during menstruation.
What are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are growths of smooth muscle that develop in the myometrium layer of the uterus. Fibroids are also known as uterine myomas, leiomyomas or fibromas comprised of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that develop as growths in the uterus. Fibroids can range in size from the size of a pinhead to as large as a melon.
What are the Different Types of Uterine Fibroid Tumors?
There are four basic types of uterine fibroids as follows:
Subserosal fibroid tumors form on the outer wall of the uterus and grow outward. This kind of fibroid growth generally does not affect a woman’s usual menstruation pattern based on their location. However, subserosal fibroids tumors can cause pressure to be applied to surrounding organs. Women who have this type of fibroid may suffer from pressure and pain in the pelvic area.
Intramural fibroid tumors are the most common type of uterine fibroids.
They form inside the uterine wall and can cause the uterus to feel enlarged as they grow and expand. A woman’s menstruation cycle can be impacted from an intramural fibroid tumor including a longer cycle and excessive flow. Women who have this type of fibroid may also experience pelvic pain and the need to urinate more often.
Submucosal fibroid tumors are the least common fibroid tumor. These tumors form below the uterine cavity’s lining, which can cause the fallopian tubes to be blocked. When a blockage occurs, women who have these tumors may deal with fertility problems. A woman’s menstruation cycle can also be impacted with heavier and longer periods.
Pedunculated fibroid tumors occur when a uterine tumor grows on a stalk and extends away from the uterine wall, either inside the uterus or outside the uterus. These types of fibroids tend to result in symptoms, which may include pressure and pain, especially when the tumor becomes twisted on the stalk.
Uterine fibroids are an incredibly common diagnosis for women. It is common for women to have numerous fibroid tumors that are located in various parts of the uterus. In fact, one out of every four women in the U.S. have fibroids during their lifetime. Nearly 75% of women suffer from fibroids by the age of 50.
Two thirds of fibroid tumors are never diagnosed as only one in three women usually experiences symptoms. Fibroids are also often too small to be detected by a physician during a physical examination.
In more than 99% of fibroids, the tumors are benign or non-cancerous and treatable. Non-cancerous tumors are not associated with cancer and do not increase a woman’s risk for uterine cancer.
Fibroid tumors can cause moderate to severe abdominal pain and discomfort. They can affect fertility by changing the shape of the uterus or causing damage to it making it difficult or improbable to get pregnant. The most common symptoms associated with fibroid tumors include pain, prolonged menstruation and abnormal bleeding, lower back pain, and pain during intercourse. Uterine fibroids can become dangerous in the event they cause blockages and other medical conditions such as iron-deficiency anemia.
You do not have to feel alone during this time. The patient care team at the Fibroid Center truly cares about you and your unique situation and is here to help.
The experts at the Fibroid Center at St Johns Interventional and Vascular Institute can help detect, diagnose and treat your uterine fibroids with Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), the minimally-invasive treatment and safe non-surgical alternative to a traditional hysterectomy.