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Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids (also called leiomyoma) are not cancer. Affecting as many as one in five women, these benign fibroid tumors grow in a woman’s uterus and may require treatment.

Uterine fibroids: what you should know

  • Sometimes fibroids are so small they can only be seen through a microscope. And in some instances, they are so large they weigh pounds. Often there is more than one fibroid.
  •  While many women experience no symptoms, some women experience these uterine fibroid symptoms:
  • Fibroids occasionally cause more significant problems:
    • Severe pain or bleeding that require surgery
    • Anemia as a result of heavy bleeding
    • Infertility
  • If you are pregnant, fibroids could cause complications:
    • Delivery before your due date because the fibroids take up too much space in your uterus
    • Difficult delivery
    • Heavy bleeding after birth

How are uterine fibroid tumors diagnosed?

If you and your OB-GYN or primary care doctor suspect fibroids, your doctor will perform pelvic exam. He or she will look for a change in the shape of your uterus.

But fibroids aren’t always so easy to find. Being overweight, for example, makes it particularly challenging. So your doctor may perform one or more additional tests:

  • Ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Hysterosonography, or saline-infused sonogram (SIS): Saline is injected in your uterus so it’s easier to see your uterus with ultrasound
  • Hysteroscopy: Doctors insert a long, thin tube through the vagina to view the inside of the uterus

If you have unusual bleeding, your doctor may perform one of these procedures:

  • Take a sample from the lining of your uterus (endometrial biopsy). Your doctor will have the sample checked for cancer.
  • Perform a laparoscopy. To look inside your uterus and pelvic area, your doctor will make a small incision in your belly and insert a camera.

Care for uterine fibroids at Rush

At Rush, uterine fibroids can be treated by OB-GYNs as well as interventional radiologists and fertility specialists. The doctor and approach will depend on several factors:

  • Your age and overall health
  • Your symptoms
  • The location, size and number of fibroids
  • Whether or not you are pregnant
  • Your desire to have children

If your symptoms aren’t severe, your doctor may recommend watchful waiting. Or he or she may suggest the following:

  • For heavy periods
    • Birth control pills to help control heavy periods
    • Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
    • Iron supplements to reduce risk of anemia or treat anemia caused by losing iron during heavy periods
  • For pain and cramps
    • Ibuprofen or naprosyn
  • To shrink fibroids
    • Hormone therapy shots
  • To remove the fibroids
    • Myomectomy (removal of fibroid from the uterus): Doctors can do this using several approaches, including hysteroscopy,  laparoscopy or robotic surgery.
    • Uterine artery embolization, also known as uterine fibroid embolization: This minimally invasive procedure, performed by interventional radiologists, cuts off the fibroids' blood supply, causing them to shrink and die. This less invasive method typically offers patients similar outcomes to surgical options, but with a recovery of two to three days instead of four to six weeks.
    • Hysterectomy (complete removal of the uterus): If you choose this option, you will not be able to get pregnant. At Rush, you’ll find OB-GYNs who are trained to use robotic surgery (da Vinci surgical system) to remove fibroids and interventional radiologists who perform uterine fibroid embolization.

Why choose Rush for uterine fibroid care

  • OB-GYNs at Rush are trained in the most advanced methods to treat fibroids; many use robotic surgery (da Vinci).
  • Diagnosing and treating fibroids can sometimes require multiple specialists. Staff in the Program for Abdominal and Pelvic Health at Rush collaborate to coordinate services, create personalized treatment plans and facilitate communication with referring physicians to give patients a high level of care.
  • Through an incision no larger than the tip of a pencil, interventional radiologists at Rush treat fibroids using uterine artery embolization, also known as uterine fibroid embolization. This minimally invasive method has a significantly shorter recovery time, with comparable outcomes for patients. 
  • Sometimes fibroids can lead to infertility. At Rush, fertility specialists treat fibroids to increase a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.

Departments and programs that treat this condition