Uterine leiomyomata, or fibroids, are benign (non-cancerous) tumors of uterine
muscle. Fibroids cause heavy menstrual bleeding (periods) and pelvic pressure
as well as painful periods and painful intercourse. Some women experience a
negative effect on fertility or childbearing, including recurrent miscarriages.
Diagnosed by a pelvic exam and an ultrasound, fibroids are the most common
reproductive tumor in women, affecting 70-80o/D of all US women by age 50. They
are the most common reason for hysterectomy in the United States.
The good news is that not all fibroids need to be treated. Many women have only
mild or even no symptoms. These women, in general, can just “monitor” their
fibroids until menopause. Other women are significantly affected by bleeding.
pressure, pain, or fertility problems. Nearly one half of women with fibroids will
need treatment at some point to restore their quality of life. Besides the presence
and type of symptoms. there are several important factors in deciding on a
treatment course: the number, location, and size of the fibroids, a woman’s plans
for fertility or her desire to keep her uterus1 and patient characteristics such as
obesity. diabetes, and a history of other surgeries such as a cesarean section.
Treatment decisions can be complex and therefore should be individualized
during a thorough evaluation and planning session with a doctor.
Many women wilt first be offered a simple “trial” approach with medication to
retieve symptoms. Birth control pills or hormones taken by mouth can help
control heavy menstrual bleeding in some women. A progesterone-containing
intrauterine device (IUD) can reduce fibroid-related menstrual bleeding by
keeping the menstrual lining thin and dry. Medications such as ibuprofen can
reduce menstrual cramping and works best if taken on a schedule during the
worst few days of cramping.
Fibroid symptoms not relieved by simple measures usually require a procedure
or surgery for treatment Women who have completed childbearing are often best
served by a hysterectomy. Having a hysterectomy for fibroids provides the best
return to health-related quality of life when compared to the other major
treatments techniques. Most hysterectomies today can be performed with
laparoscopic, robotic, or vaginal technique allowing women to have a short «24
hours) hospital stay, faster recovery, less infection risk, minimal blood loss and
less pain than traditional surgery. Menstruation stops after hysterectomy but,
unless the ovaries are also removed, hormone production continues until natural
For women who want to pursue a pregnancy but have severe symptoms,
myomectomy is the recommended approach. Depending on the size and number
of fibroids, myomectomy can be done with robotic surgery, or with a small
abdominal incision (mini-laparotomy), or through intrauterine (hysteroscopic)
surgery with no incision at all. Most women considering a myomectomy win
benefit having an MRI to examine the uterus in detail, allowing the best plan for
Some women choose to avoid hysterectomy or myomectomy, even if they are no
longer pursuing pregnancy. Others should avoid surgery due to risks such as
severe internal scarring or severe medical problems preventing safe anesthesia.
Uterine fibroids are a very important women’s health problem. Unfortunately,
many women suffer quietly for years before seeking and receiving helpful
treatment. We now have effective, minimally-invasive treatments for women with
symptomatic fibroids. Most of these treatments can be done with small or no
incisions, reducing pain and recovery time and returning women to the good
quality of life they deserve.