Fibroids are noncancerous growths that can develop in women of childbearing age, most commonly between the ages of 35 and 40.
If you’re experiencing heavy, painful periods that last longer than a week, you have close female relatives who have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, or you’re having trouble conceiving, it’s important to get checked out as soon as possible. However, many women with fibroids don’t experience any symptoms, so it can be difficult to know when you need to be examined.
At his Las Vegas practice, Dr. Darin Swainston has over 20 years of experience treating the full range of gynecologic issues, including the diagnosis and treatment of uterine fibroids. Here is what you should know to help you determine whether you should come in for a consultation and exam.
Fibroids are not cancerous
Also known as leiomyomas, uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop inside your uterus. They’re benign and don’t develop into cancer or put you at an increased risk of developing cancer in your uterus.
While experts haven’t determined exactly what causes uterine fibroids to develop, many believe that hormonal changes, growth factors, and genetic influences may contribute. We do know that you’re at more risk of developing fibroids if you:
- Drink alcohol regularly
- Suffer from vitamin D deficiency
- Have a sister or mother who has/had fibroids
- Use hormonal birth control
- Are obese
- Started menstruating at a young age
Fibroids can vary in size and shape, from a small growth that can barely be seen by the human eye to a bulky mass capable of distorting and enlarging your uterus. It’s not unusual to have more than one fibroid grow inside your uterus, although you may be completely unaware that you have any at all unless Dr. Swainston finds them during a routine pelvic exam.
It’s quite common for uterine fibroids to grow during your lifetime, but most women don’t experience any symptoms and the hormonal changes caused by menopause will often trigger the fibroids to shrink in size or disappear.
Uterine fibroids don’t often cause symptoms
It’s not until a fibroid has grown to a large enough size or you have enough of them to distort the shape of your uterus, putting pressure on your abdomen, that symptoms appear. Common symptoms of uterine fibroids include:
- Back pain that can extend into the legs
- Difficulty emptying your bladder
- Frequent need to urinate
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Pelvic pressure and/or pain
- Periods that last more than a week
It’s important to visit Dr. Swainston for a diagnosis and treatment if any of these symptoms are persistent, getting worse, or your periods are consistently heavy and prolonged.
Most fibroids are discovered during a routine pelvic exam
Because many women don’t experience any symptoms of fibroids or chalk up their back pain and constipation to other causes, they may not be aware that they have fibroids until they come in for their routine pelvic exam.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, a pelvic exam is the first step, though fibroids that are small in size may not be felt or seen during this initial examination. If further confirmation is needed, Dr. Swainston typically performs an ultrasound, which is a completely safe procedure that enables him to see the inside of your uterus and determine whether fibroids are to blame for your symptoms.
Once Dr. Swainston has diagnosed fibroids, there are a number of treatment options available, including medication, noninvasive procedures like MRI-guided surgery, endometrial ablation, or traditional surgery including a hysterectomy. Dr. Swainston will discuss all of your treatment options during your consultation and help you decide on the best approach to treat your fibroids.
To schedule your consultation, call our Las Vegas office today.