St. Michael's University Hospital, Bristol.
At least one in four women will develop one or more fibroids during their lifetime. They occur most commonly in women aged 30-50 and are three times more common in women of Afro-Caribbean descent than in Caucasian women. Risk factors for fibroids include: age, nulliparity, race, family history and obesity. In two-thirds of cases there are no symptoms. If the tumours are small and not causing symptoms, they do not require treatment However, if they enlarge, they can cause abnormal bleeding, pressure on the bladderand/or bowel and the patient may have difficulty getting pregnant. Fibroids are often discovered as an incidental finding on ultrasound but may also present in the following ways: abnormal uterine bleeding and menorrhagia; infertility; pelvic mass; increasing girth; pressure symptoms (urinary frequency and/or constipation); urinary retention; acute pelvic pain due to torsion of a pedunculated fibroid. During pregnancy, fibroids enlarge and may undergo red degeneration causing pain. Medication can only be used to improve symptoms and/or shrink the fibroids prior to surgery. Women with fibroids >3 cm in diameter causing significant symptoms, pain or pressure and wishing to retain their uterus may consider myomectomy. Hysterectomy is the standard treatment for women with symptomatic fibroids who have not improved with medical treatment. If the woman's family is complete and the fibroids are multiple, hysterectomy provides a permanent cure. Uterine artery embolisation is only recommended if surgery was planned for symptomatic fibroids and if the fibroids are <20 weeks in size. Referral is recommended in the following cases: submucous fibroid and abnormal bleeding; fibroids >3 cm in diameter uterus palpable abdominally or >12 cm in size on scan; persistent intermenstrual bleeding; age >45 where treatment has failed or been ineffective. Sarcomatous change within fibroids is rare and is normally associated with rapid growth. Such cases should be referred urgently.
- [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]