The good news about fibroid tumors is they’re almost always benign and they are quite common. Also referred to as leiomyomas, uterine myomas or fibromas, fibroid tumors affect between 20% and 50% of women over the course of their lifetime.
The not so good news is that certain types of fibroid tumors, those that affect the shape and function of the interior uterine cavity, can cause infertility problems. This is why diagnosis and treatment are so important if you are a woman in childbearing years, who plans to get pregnant.
How Do Fibroid Tumors Affect Fertility?
While only 1 in 1000 fibroids are cancerous, fibroids can cause infertility. Currently we estimate certain fibroid tumors cause of infertility in 10% of women with fertility problems, making them a leading cause of female infertility.
This is because certain types of fibroids protrude or indent the endometrial cavity. Depending on where these indentions are located, they can make it more difficult for ovulation to occur regularly, for a fertilized egg to attach to the endometrial lining, for the growing fetus to have a healthy connection to the endometrium and/ or for a baby to grow full-term inside a nicely formed, spacious womb.
If you’re diagnosed with submucosal fibroids, the type most likely to affect the interior womb cavity, removal may be necessary in order for you to get pregnant. Called a myomectomy, this gentle surgical procedure removes the fibroid tumor(s) while leaving the uterus intact for future fertility.
Women with submucosal fibroid tumors should be very careful when selecting the physician who performs their myomectomy. Scar tissue can be equally damaging to the uterus and fertility rates. It’s worth it to pursue treatment with a physician who is experienced with the procedure and has an excellent track record when it comes to patients’ post-myomectomy fertility rates.
Symptoms of Fibroid Tumors
Fibroid tumors are asymptomatic the large majority of the time, which means you may not even know you have them unless they compromise fertility, and/or are detected via pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound, MRI, or other diagnostic methods.
When fibroids are symptomatic, they show up via:
- Irregular periods, typically consisting of prolonged heavy bleeding or bleeding between cycles
- Frequent urination
- Pain in the pelvic region or lower back, caused by the pressure tumors place surrounding organs
- Pain or discomfort during intercourse
- A firm mass that can be felt during a pelvic exam
Treatment for fibroid tumors
As we’ve mentioned above, a myomectomy is the best treatment option for women who plan to get pregnant and have fibroid tumors that compromise the shape or function of the uterine cavity. Other types of fibroids, those that extend outside the uterus, very rarely require surgical intervention to improve fertility rates. Most drug or hormone-based treatments are put on hold during your childbearing years as they can affect the ability to conceive.
If you suffer from painful or uncomfortable fibroid tumors, your doctor may recommend more permanent treatment methods once your family is complete.
Observing routine well-woman visits with your OB/GYN is one of the single best things you can do to ensure latent fibroid tumors are diagnosed and treated effectively. Contact Overlake to schedule a consultation.