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Are You at Risk for Uterine Fibroids?

What Are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that can cause irregular, heavy menstrual cycles and chronic significant pain in the pelvic region. As many as three out of four women of childbearing age suffer from uterine fibroids and are not even aware of it. Uterine fibroids are not associated with uterine cancer and very rarely develop into cancer. Surgical procedures and medical therapy can be used to shrink or remove the tumors if they become uncomfortable. Very rarely will uterine fibroids require emergency treatment unless sharp pelvic pain or excessive menstrual bleeding occurs.  

Who Is At-Risk for Uterine Fibroids?

The development of uterine fibroids in women is very common, and those who are at risk may not experience symptoms. Uterine fibroids are more common in middle-aged women, but can be experienced at any age. As many as 70 to 80 percent of all women will develop fibroids by the age of 50. African American women are more at risk for fibroids, especially at a younger age. Some research shows that obesity may increase the risk of fibroids, and that the use of oral contraceptives can lower these risks. 

Symptoms

Uterine fibroids may cause little symptoms or none at all. The two distinct symptoms of uterine fibroids are pressure and changes in menstrual cycles. Some women may experience pressure located on the bladder or rectum, pain in the lower back and or abdominal area, constipation or rectal pain and frequent urination. There may also be significant changes in periods such as mild-to-severe cramping, heavier bleeding, longer or more frequent menstruation, and bleeding and spotting between cycles.  

Complications

Although uterine fibroids aren’t normally dangerous, they can at times cause a great deal of discomfort. If they are severe or left untreated, large amounts of blood loss can lead to anemia. For the most part, fibroids will not interfere with pregnancy and conception, however, it is possible that fibroids can obstruct or alter the fallopian tubes or hinder the travel of sperm from the cervix to the fallopian tubes. In some women, uterine fibroids can cause fertility problems and recurrent miscarriages.  

Detection and Treatment

There are several ways to detect and treat uterine fibroids. Most often, fibroids are found incidentally by a physician through a routine pelvic exam. An ultrasound can also be used for detection and, if that does not provide enough information, other diagnostic imaging studies can be used. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure performed in the hospital. During this procedure, physicians use an X-ray camera to guide small particles to the uterus to block the arteries that provide blood flow to the fibroids and causing them to shrink. According to the American College of Radiology, nearly 90 percent of women with fibroids experience relief of their symptoms after UFE. After this procedure, patients can typically resume normal activities within one week.  

How CKHS Can Help

UFE is available at Crozer-Chester Medical Center and Delaware County Memorial Hospital. DCMH recently renovated its Vascular and Interventional Radiology laboratory, located on the 4th floor of the main hospital. 

For an appointment at Crozer, call (610) 447-2446. To make an appointment at DCMH, call (610) 284-8311.

Reviewed by Hazem Hosein, M.D., a board-certified radiologist at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. Dr. Hosein performs minimally invasive interventional procedures, including uterine fibroid embolization, using image guidance. He can be reached at (610) 284-8311.

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