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A fibroid is a benign tumour of macular and fibrous tissues which typically develops in or around the womb. They tend to grow slowly during the reproductive years although their growth can be unpredictable. Fibroids that have grown slowly in the past tend to keep growing slowly. After the menopause, fibroids get slowly smaller again although it may take many years for very large fibroids to shrink. Fibroids occur in about 25% of women overall although they are particularly common in Afro-Caribbean occurring in about 50%. Usually they cause no symptoms and many women would not know they had them.
What symptoms do fibroids cause?
As fibroid increase in size, they may be noticeable as a lump in the tummy. Submucous fibroids may be associated with very heavy periods. Very occasionally fibroids outgrow their blood supply and cause pain.
How are fibroids treated?
If fibroids are not causing symptoms, they may not need treatment at all. The traditional approach to treating fibroids was to remove them surgically, an operation called a myomectomy. In many ways a myomectomy is still the best way to treat fibroids, particularly if fertility is important. A myomectomy can be done as an open operation, a keyhole operation or as a robotically assisted procedure.
Mr McIndoe specialises in the removal of these fibroids using Robotic Surgery, which offers speedy recovery rates. This surgery is typically carried out using the Da Vinci Robot at The Wellington Hospital.
The blood supply to the fibroids can be disrupted in a procedure called an embolisation. Access to the arteries supplying the uterus is through the groin. The canula is guided into the appropriate position and small particles are released that block the blood supply to the fibroid. This is done whilst the patient is awake. Usually the patient goes home the next day following the procedure. The fibroids shrink by about 50% with this technique.
Other ways of treating fibroids includes using highly focussed ultrasound beams to destroy the cells of the fibroid or a laser beam directed down a fibre into the fibroid.
If the woman has finished having children and is happy to have the womb removed a hysterectomy is an option as it removes all the fibroids and has a very high satisfaction rate.
Can fibroids become cancerous?
This is very rare and is so uncommon that it is not usually considered when talking about fibroids. Occasionally cancers do arise in the muscle of the uterus and can initially appear a little like a fibroid but expert radiology can usually recognise the difference.
What are other names for fibroids?
The technical name for a fibroid is a leiomyoma.
Myo means muscle and leio means the type of muscle found in internal organs, called smooth muscle. So a fibroid is a growth of smooth muscle cells.
Other names are uterine myoma, fibroma, or fibromyoma.