Uterine Fibroids Specialist in Columbia SC
While uterine fibroids are common, many cause no symptoms and can even go undetected. Other fibroids can grow to be large, causing significant symptoms and even resulting in miscarriages. At our gynecology practice in Columbia, SC, Dr. Albert Odom helps women get the treatment they need for their uterine fibroids with medication or minimally-invasive procedures to shrink or remove these benign tumors. Contact Dr. Odom for your appointment to see how he can help get back to life without pain.
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that occur inside or on the uterus and are the most common type of female reproductive system tumor. Composed of muscle and connective tissue, fibroids can be located inside the uterus, in or on the wall of the uterus, or just outside the uterus and attached by a “stem.”
Estimates say anywhere from 30% to 77% of women will develop one or more fibroids during their childbearing years, but most fibroids will be too small to initiate symptoms or be diagnosed.
The cause of fibroid development is unknown, but family history of fibroids and hormonal fluctuations seem to play significant roles for women near Richland County. Uterine fibroids can range in size from about the size of a pellet to the size of a softball in some women.
What kinds of symptoms do uterine fibroids cause?
Some very small fibroids may cause no symptoms at all in women, but when symptoms occur, they can include:
- Cramping that is painful during periods
- Periods that are very heavy and longer, or spotting between periods
- The urge to urinate more frequently
- Pain when having intercourse
- Pressure in the lower belly or pelvic region
- Pain in the lower back region
Are fibroids a type of cancer or pre-cancerous?
Very Rare. Less than 1% of uterine fibroids are cancerous.
Are some women at higher risk for developing fibroids?
Some women may be at a higher risk for developing uterine fibroids than other patients. One of the factors is ethnicity as the lifetime risk (cumulative incidence) of fibroids varies among ethnic groups. Black women in particular have a lifetime cumulative incidence of developing fibroids at approximately 80%. This means that at some point from birth to death a black women have an 80% chance of having fibroids. For Caucasian women, that cumulative incidence number falls to around 60-70% while for Asian woman it’s even lower.
What steps are taken to diagnose fibroids?
Diagnosis for fibroids begins with a review of a woman’s symptoms and medical history, followed by a pelvic exam. Other techniques used to confirm a diagnosis can include X-rays, transvaginal ultrasound, an MRI, and hysteroscopy, which utilizes a flexible instrument called a hysteroscope to see inside the uterus.
If I have fibroids, can I still have a baby?
Many women near Columbia, SC with fibroids can still become pregnant and carry a baby to term. However, if the fibroids begin growing during pregnancy or are large, they can cause complications and even miscarriage. To help prevent complications, women in South Carolina with a history of uterine fibroids will need to be managed carefully during pregnancy.
Treatment for Uterine Fibroids
If you experience mild symptoms associated with your uterine fibroids, then you may be able to manage them with simple changes to your diet or daily routine. Some preliminary treatments to try at home include:
- Applying a hot compress to your lower abdomen several times a day can significantly reduce pain caused by uterine fibroids.
- Using over-the-counter pain relievers and blood thinners such as ibuprofen to reduce pressure and inflammation within the uterus can be quite helpful.
- Modifying your diet to cut out processed foods or foods that contain high levels of the estrogen hormone.
There are a variety of prescription medications that can be utilized to help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, which can help to alleviate fibroid symptoms. Such medications can range from common forms of hormonal birth control to drugs specifically designed to treat uterine fibroids.
It should be noted that medications for fibroids are fairly new, meaning that their potential side effects are not entirely known.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
A UFE procedure works to stop blood flow to the fibroid by filling up the corresponding arteries with an embolic fluid. By eliminating the fibroid’s source of blood you also eliminate its ability to grow and develop. After a uterine fibroid embolization a woman’s fibroids will typically shrink and die off as the tumor starves.
This procedure is also known as a uterine artery embolization. The entire process is minimally invasive and only requires a small incision to be made for the tube that carries the embolic substance to the necessary arteries.
A myomectomy is the surgical removal of a fibroid. This treatment is ideal for those who have a fibroid that protrudes from the uterine wall. Any fibroid that is situated deep within the uterine tissue will be difficult to remove without causing significant damage or scarring to the uterus or the uterine lining.
Patients who experience especially severe complications as a result of their uterine fibroids may be recommended for a hysterectomy. This surgery involves the complete removal of the uterus, which subsequently is the only way to guarantee a permanent reprieve from uterine fibroids and their symptoms.
This procedure is not recommended for women looking to preserve their fertility as there is no natural way to conceive and carry a child without a uterus. Many who choose to undergo a hysterectomy will consider it as a last resort after attempting other, less invasive treatment methods.