Uterine fibroids are growths (tumors) in your uterus that are not cancerous. Also called leiomyomas or myomas, fibroids most often appear during reproductive years and affect as many as one in five women. Some fibroids are so small they can be seen only under a microscope; others are large masses that can change the shape of your uterus.
Signs You Should Get Help for Fibroids
It's common to have fibroids and experience no symptoms. Your Rush provider may discover fibroids during your annual exam, or you could have the following signs:
- Bleeding between periods, heavy periods or long-lasting periods
- Pelvic cramping or discomfort during your period
- Having to urinate more than usual
- Abdominal fullness or pressure
- Backache or leg pains
- Pain during sex
If you are pregnant, fibroids could cause complications, including delivering before your due date, difficult delivery or heavy bleeding after birth. Your Rush OB-GYN will closely monitor, and potentially treat your fibroids, as part of your pregnancy care.
If you or your Rush OB-GYN or primary care provider think you may have fibroids, your provider will start by performing a pelvic exam to see if your uterus shape has changed.
Sometimes fibroids aren't easy to find through a pelvic exam. Your provider can also perform one or more tests or procedures to identify your fibroids:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Hysterosonography or saline-infused sonogram
- Endometrial biopsy
Fibroid Treatment at Rush
Although uterine fibroids aren't usually dangerous, they can cause pain and discomfort. They may also cause complications such as anemia (low red blood cells) because of heavy bleeding.
Your Rush provider will help you understand your treatment options and recommend a treatment plan based on your symptoms, health and lifestyle, and the location, size and number of your fibroids. Your treatment options may include one or more of the following:
- Birth control and hormonal methods to help control heavy periods
- Iron supplements to reduce the risk of anemia
- Over-the-counter medication for pain and cramps
- Hormone therapy shots to shrink the fibroids
- Fibroid removal: myomectomy (minimally invasive surgery), uterine fibroid embolization (non-surgical) or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus for complex cases)
If your fibroids are not impacting your life, your provider may recommend "watchful waiting" to see if treatment is needed in the future.
Rush Excellence in Fibroids Care
- Nationally ranked for gynecologic care: Rush University Medical Center's gynecology program is ranked among the nation's best by U.S. News & World Report. Our program takes a holistic approach to your care, prioritizing your preferences and offering you a full range of treatment options that consider your overall health and well-being.
- Convenient and comprehensive care for complex cases: Diagnosing and treating uterine fibroids can sometimes require multiple specialists, particularly in complicated cases. The Program for Abdominal and Pelvic Health at Rush University Medical Center brings together the physicians needed to give you complete care. We'll coordinate your services, create a personalized treatment plan for you, and facilitate communication between you and your providers for your convenience.
- Access to the latest research: As one of the top academic medical centers in Illinois, Rush University Medical Center participates in clinical trials related to fibroid study and treatment. Rush patients have access to these trials and potentially new treatments before they are available to a broader audience.
- Embolization offers non-surgical treatment: Through an incision no larger than the tip of a pencil, Rush interventional radiologists perform uterine fibroid embolization to break down fibroids. This minimally invasive, nonsurgical method shrinks the growths by blocking off their blood supply. Embolization is a safe procedure that treats fibroids with minimal risk; plus, you'll be able to return to daily life quicker than if you had surgery.
- Minimally invasive surgery options: If you need your fibroids removed surgically, Rush providers are trained in the most advanced surgical methods. For instance, many of our doctors use the da Vinci surgical system — robot-assisted technology that allows us to perform procedures through a small incision. Robotic surgeries are minimally invasive, meaning you will experience reduced pain, less scarring, and a shorter hospital stay and recovery time than with traditional surgery.
- Infertility specialists ready to care for you: Sometimes fibroids can lead to infertility. At Rush, we will treat your fibroids to increase your chances of getting pregnant. If infertility continues, Rush University Medical Center offers one of the most experienced infertility and reproductive endocrinology teams in Chicago.