What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are very common non-cancerous (benign) growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. They can range in size from very tiny (a quarter of an inch) to larger than a cantaloupe. Occasionally, they can cause the uterus to grow to the size of a five-month pregnancy. In most cases, there is more than one fibroid in the uterus. While fibroids do not always cause symptoms, their size and location can lead to problems for some women, including pain and heavy bleeding.
Most fibroids don’t cause symptoms—only 10 percent to 20 percent of women who have fibroids ever require treatment. Depending on location, size and number of fibroids, a woman might experience the following:
- Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods and unusual monthly bleeding, sometimes clots.
- Pelvic pain.
- Pelvic pressure or heaviness caused by the bulk or weight of the fibroids pressing on nearby structures.
- Pain in the back or legs as the fibroids press on nerves that supply the pelvis and legs.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
- Bladder pressure leading to a constant urge to urinate.
- Pressure on the bowel, leading to constipation and bloating.
- Abnormally enlarged abdomen.
Uterine fibroids are very common, although often they are very small and cause no problems. From 20-40 percent of women age 35 and older have uterine fibroids of a significant size.
African American women are at a higher risk: as many as 50 percent have fibroids of a significant size. Fibroid tumors may start in women when they are in their 20’s, however, most women do not begin to have symptoms until they are in their late 30’s or 40’s. Physicians are not able to predict if a fibroid will grow or cause symptoms.
Typically, fibroids are first diagnosed during a gynecologic internal examination. Your doctor will conduct a pelvic exam to feel if your uterus is enlarged. The presence of fibroids is most often confirmed by an abdominal ultrasound. Fibroids also can be confirmed using magnetic resonance (MR) and computed tomography (CT) imaging techniques.
The Interventional Radiologists at the California Imaging Institute use a non-surgical treatment that causes the fibroid to shrink. This treatment is known as uterine fibroid embolization.
This approach to the treatment of fibroids blocks the arteries that supply blood to the fibroids causing them to shrink. It is a minimally-invasive procedure, which means it requires only a tiny nick in the skin, and is performed while the patient is conscious but sedated-drowsy and feeling no pain.
Fibroid embolization usually requires a hospital stay of one night. Pain-killing medications and drugs that control swelling typically are prescribed following the procedure to treat cramping and pain. Many women resume light activities in a few days and the majority of women are able to return to normal activities within seven to 10 days.
For more information please call the California Imaging Institute at 559.325.5800
To learn more,please visit the Society of Interventional Radiology at www.SIRweb.org.
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Medication Instructions for Uterine Fibroids
- Most people can continue to take their prescribed medications.
- If you are a diabetic and take insulin, ask your doctor about modifying your insulin dose for the day of your procedure. If you are taking the oral anti-diabetic medicine Glucophage (Metformin), Plavix, or Lovenox, you may need to discontinue use for up to 48 hours following the procedure. Consult with your doctor about blood sugar control during this period.
- If you take a blood thinner such as Aspirin, Coumadin, Plavix, or Lovenox, you must tell your doctor so that it can be stopped. If you do not know if your medications are blood thinners, please consult your physician at least one week prior to your exam.
- Please bring a list of your current medications and dosages on the day of your exam.
Do not eat or drink after midnight on the night before your procedure. Do not smoke for at least 24 hours prior to your angiogram.
If you are allergic to contrast (X-Ray dye) or iodine, let your doctor know as soon as possible. If possible, let the interventional radiologist know about your allergy a few days before your angiogram.