This item was developed in collaboration with The White Dress Project.
Medically assessed by Dr. Kristen A. Matteson
Uterine fibroids are the most common gynecological disease in women of childbearing age. Up to 80% of women by the age of 50 have fibroids, which are benign (benign) tumors that develop in or on a woman’s uterine wall.
While women who have small fibroids or fibroids with no symptoms may never know they have them, an estimated 20% of women with fibroids will have symptoms that range from mild to severe. There are several options available for treating fibroids, from home / natural remedies and prescription drugs to surgery.
We have Dr. Kristen A. Matteson, an OB-GYN at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School and Women and Infants Hospital, asked some questions women should ask their health care provider (HCP) if they were diagnosed with fibroids.
How do fibroids affect my daily activities such as exercise, sex and my period?
It all depends. Some people have no symptoms at all. The only reason they know they have fibroids is because they will be found on an ultrasound done for other reasons. The effects on daily activities will vary from person to person and will depend on the size, location, and number of uterine fibroids. Your periods can be extremely heavy and prolonged, and contain extremely large blood clots that can prevent people from being comfortable with certain activities or even prevent them from leaving their home on those days. If certain activities, such as exercise or sex, are uncomfortable or painful, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
Do all fibroids need treatment? What if i don’t get treatment?
Uterine fibroids are extremely common, affecting up to 70% of people with a uterus in their early 50s. You only need treatment when you have symptoms, and most people with fibroids never have any symptoms. Symptoms can go away without treatment, especially if you’re near menopause, which leads to a decrease in the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Symptoms can stay the same or get worse – everyone is different.
What treatment options are there and how do they differ depending on age?
Treatment options depend on the type of symptoms you are having (heavy periods, pelvic pressure, or both), the location of the uterine fibroids, and whether you plan to have children. The best treatment option will depend on your symptoms, values, preferences, and expectations. For this reason, it is important to have a conversation with your handicap and participate in the joint decision-making process.
In general, the following treatment options are available:
What makes me a candidate for surgery versus a non-invasive or minimally invasive procedure?
Factors such as the location and size of the uterine fibroids will determine whether surgery or a non-invasive / minimally invasive procedure is best for you.
What is the difference in surgical treatments (hysterectomy vs. myomectomy)?
Myomectomy is the removal of the fibroids and can be performed laparoscopically, abdominally, or with a thin, lighted tube called a hysteroscope. Hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and can be performed vaginally, laparoscopically, or abdominally.
How long is the recovery period after treatment?
Many factors affect recovery, including the type of surgery. The best way to know how long it will take to recover from surgery is to speak to your surgeon about your specific circumstances and the type of surgery.
What is the likelihood that fibroids will return after treatment?
Fibroids may not grow back if they are completely removed, but new fibroids can grow after treatments other than hysterectomy. This is more likely with some types of fibroids than others. So, speak to your doctor about whether your type of fibroids is likely to come back. Women who have multiple fibroids are more likely to develop new fibroids after they have been removed with a myomectomy, but women who have only one fibroid have a lower rate of recurrence.
Can fibroids affect pregnancy or my fertility?
Depending on where your fibroids are located, they can affect your ability to get or stay pregnant. Removing certain fibroids can improve your chances of conceiving. Ask your doctor if your fibroids could affect your pregnancy or fertility.
This resource was produced with the assistance of Myovant Sciences and Pfizer.