A fibroid is a benign growth of muscle which develops in the wall of the uterus. Fibroids range in size from 5-10mm to 150mm. They are very common, occurring in up to 30% of women. They generally do not cause any problems and many patients go through life with their fibroids unnoticed. Also, the majority of fibroids shrink significantly in size after menopause.
Some patients do however run into problems which may include infertility, heavy or irregular periods and pain.
Infertility may occur as a result of blockage of the fallopian tubes. Such a blockage may prevent the sperm from meeting the egg just before conception or prevent the embryo’s passage toward the uterus. Fertility may also be reduced if the fibroids significantly disrupt the cavity of the uterus.
Irregular bleeding with fibroids is usually the result of enlargement or distortion of the uterine cavity. Sometimes a small fibroid within the cavity may also cause heavy and irregular bleeding.
If fibroids enlarge and outgrow their blood supply, degeneration of the muscle may occur causing pain. Degeneration generally only occurs during pregnancy. Such a complication is rare.
Problematic fibroids may be treated with a variety of hormones to decrease their size. It may however, take several months before a reduction in size is noted. Other fibroids may be dealt with by surgery. If the fibroid is small and positioned within the cavity it may be possible to introduce a narrow telescope into the uterine cavity and remove the fibroid. Larger fibroids are usually approached either through keyhole or open surgery.