3 Questions for our Expert on Fibroids
April 23 to 27 is Fibroid Awareness Week, a week dedicated to educating women on fibroids and empowering them to take control of their treatment options. In honor of this week, Shira Varon, MD, FACOG, assistant clinical professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Department of Reproductive Medicine, has answered three commonly asked questions about fibroids.
Question: What are fibroids?
Answer: Fibroids are smooth muscle tumors of the uterus that usually grow during reproductive years and shrink during menopause. They are hormone-responsive tumors and usually are not cancerous, however, oral contraceptives do not cause fibroids to grow, and in general, prevention of uterine fibroids is not possible unless a hysterectomy is performed. Forty percent of hysterectomies are performed due to symptoms of uterine fibroids. There are many genetic mutations that have been identified in fibroids, and they are more common in African American women.
Q: What treatment options are available for women with fibroids?
A: Treatment options include medical therapies to control heavy menstrual bleeding and shrink fibroids, minimally invasive surgical and nonsurgical options and major surgical procedures. One relatively new procedure being performed at UC San Diego is MR-guided focused ultrasound (ExAblate is the brand name of the procedure), and UC San Diego is one of three places in California to have this technology. Five UC sites (UC San Francisco, UC Davis, UC Los Angeles, UC Irvine, and UC San Diego) are collaborating for research and therapies to treat uterine fibroids. UC San Diego is creating a database of women with uterine fibroids that will be uses for research in the future.
Q: What are the symptoms of fibroids?
A: Common symptoms of fibroids include heavy menstrual bleeding, irregular menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, painful periods, bloating, pain during sexual intercourse and urinary urgency/frequency.