Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous (benign) tumours, commonly seen in women of childbearing age. They are composed of muscle cells and other tissues. They develop in and around the wall of the uterus or womb. Uterine fibroids are usually round or semi-round in shape. Based on their location within the uterus, uterine fibroids can be classified as:
Subserosal: Sited beneath the serosa (the membrane covering the outer surface of the uterus)
Submucosal: Sited inside the uterine cavity below the inside layer of the uterus
Intramural: Sited within the muscular wall of the uterus
Intracavitary: Sited inside the uterine cavity
Pedunculated: Develop on a stalk attached to the outer wall of the uterus
The exact cause for the development of them remains unknown, but some of the proposed causes include:
- Genetic abnormalities
- Alterations in expression of growth factor (protein involved in rate and extent of cell proliferation)
- Abnormalities in the vascular system
- Tissue response to injury
- Family history
- Uterine infection
- Consumption of alcohol
- Elevated blood pressure
- Hormonal imbalance during puberty
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The presence of fibroids increases with increasing age.
Sometimes they are found incidentally and a woman is completely asymptomatic, however many women will present with symptoms including heavy bleeding and painful periods.
They are best diagnosed using a pelvic ultrasound. This can tell us where they are, how many there are and how big they are. This will help the gynaecologist in making a decision about how best to manage you.
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