Uterine fibroids are very common, noncancerous growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. While fibroids do not always cause symptoms, their size and location can lead to problems for some women, including pelvic pain, heavy bleeding and, in some cases, infertility.
The cause of fibroids is unknown, but research suggests that some women may have a genetic predisposition to fibroid development and that estrogen plays an important role in the formation of fibroids. Typically, fibroids worsen as a woman enters her 30s and 40s, and then the fibroids shrink when estrogen levels drop at menopause.
Fibroids are usually 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.
A New, Minimally Invasive Treatment
The traditional treatments for fibroids have largely been major abdominal surgeries, such as hysterectomy or myomectomy, requiring long and uncomfortable recovery times. Now, a new interventional radiology procedure called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) gives women a safe alternative to hysterectomy.
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