Uterine fibroids are growths in the muscle layer of the womb that can affect about 50 to 70 percent of women. The vast majority of fibroids are benign and most women with fibroids are asymptomatic. However, fibroids can also cause symptoms such as heavy, prolonged or painful periods, pelvic or back pain, frequent urination or constipation. Fibroids can also affect a woman’s fertility.
In this article, we speak to our Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist Dr. Hong Sze Ching to find out more about the causes of uterine fibroids and its impact on women if left untreated.
According to Dr. Hong, although the exact cause of fibroids are unclear, there is much evidence that estrogen and progesterone hormones stimulate fibroid growth. Other risk factors include early start of menstruation, being overweight, having a family history. African American women also have a higher risk of fibroids. In pregnancy, because of the hormonal changes, fibroids may enlarge especially during the first trimester.
As many women with fibroids have no symptoms, they may be discovered incidentally on ultrasound or CT scans.
If you have been experiencing symptoms as mentioned above, Dr. Hong strongly advises you to see a gynecologist for assessment.
Dr. Hong highlighted that if a patient has small fibroids that are not causing any symptoms, they can be monitored by visiting their gynecologist for regular ultrasound scans.
If fibroids are causing any symptoms (or problems such as low blood count from heavy or prolonged periods), women can benefit from treatment. Should the fibroids enlarge quickly or are of a considerably large size, treatment is warranted. Women who are trying to conceive but have uterine fibroids should see a gynecologist to assess if treatment is necessary to improve the chances of pregnancy.
Fibroids can be treated through a range of procedures. Depending on the patient’s symptoms and preference, the fibroids’ size and location, gynecologists may suggest options best suited for patients. Surgeries for fibroids are generally safe with low risk of complications.
With medical advancements, high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is now an available treatment option for the treatment of uterine fibroids. HIFU is non-invasive and uses focused high energy ultrasound waves to generate localized heat to treat fibroids.
Read this article in Mandarin here.
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Dr. Hong Sze Ching
Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist
Farrer Park Hospital