OBGYN in Chicago and near Schererville, IN explains causes and treatment for uterine fibroids
With an office in the heart of Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, the OBGYN team at Northwestern Women’s Health Associates offers comprehensive feminine health care to patients in and around Chicagoland, Northwest Indiana and the surrounding areas. Our practice proudly offers complete care including the use of minimally invasive surgery for uterine fibroids. Our Northwestern OBGYN team explains fibroids causes and treatment.
Also known as leiomyomas or myomas, uterine fibroids are growths on the uterus that may appear during a woman’s reproductive years. They are not associated with an increased risk of cancer and usually do not develop into cancer. Fibroids may appear on the inside, outside, or along the uterine wall. They range in size from barely visible seedlings to large masses that change the shape of the uterus. Patients may have a single fibroid or multiple. Although they generally do not cause problems, for some patients, fibroids may cause abdominal cramping or fullness, heavy periods, and low back pain.
Causes of uterine fibroids
Although the exact cause of uterine fibroids may not be known, research points to certain factors.
- Genetic changes – Fibroids often contain gene changes that differ from normal uterine muscle cells.
- Hormones – Estrogen and progesterone are responsible for helping prepare the uterine lining during the menstrual cycle. The same hormones can also stimulate the growth of fibroids. After menopause there is a decrease in hormone production, fibroids tend to shrink at this time.
Aside from being a woman of reproductive age, there are few known risk factors for uterine fibroids. Heredity, race, and environmental factors may have an impact on fibroid development. If fibroids run in your family, you may have an increased risk of developing them as well. Environmental factors such as birth control use, obesity, a vitamin D deficiency, a diet high in red meat, a diet low in fruits and vegetables, and alcohol use may increase the risk of fibroids.
Fibroids may develop from a stem cell in the uterine muscle tissue. The cell divides repeatedly until it creates a firm, rubbery mass that is different from nearby tissue. Fibroids may grow slowly or quickly, or they may remain unchanged. Many fibroids found during pregnancy shrink or disappear after pregnancy.
Fibroid treatment options
For many women, fibroids remain undetected until they are found during a routine exam. They do not cause problems and women remain unaware of their presence. In these cases, they are just monitored for changes. There is no need to address fibroids unless they are causing medical problems or symptoms. An open discussion of the patient’s symptoms, condition, and life stage help guide the treatment plan. Surgical options are available. Traditionally, fibroids have been removed using a large abdominal incision for surgery. Medical advances have allowed less invasive measures such as laparoscopy or hysteroscopy.
A hysteroscopy is a form of minimally invasive surgery. It can be a diagnostic or operative tool to examine, diagnose, and correct problems of the uterus. The surgeon inserts a tiny lighted tube called a hysteroscope through the cervix into the uterus. This allows the doctor to see inside the uterus using a video monitor. The surgeon checks for abnormalities including fibroids or polyps.
If you have small, accessible fibroids on the inside of your uterus, your Chicago gynecologist may recommend a hysteroscopy to remove uterine fibroids. This is done without damaging the healthy uterine tissue. A hysteroscopy is a good option for women who may want to become pregnant in the future or who want to maintain the integrity of the uterus. The hysteroscope is inserted through the vagina. Your doctor uses a small instrument or wire loop to remove the fibroids. Benefits of this fibroid treatment include:
- Minimally invasive
- No incisions
- Outpatient procedure
- Little recovery time needed
Fibroids in the wall of the uterus can be removed by laparoscopic or robotic myomectomy or by laparoscopic or robotic hysterectomy.
Minimally-invasive procedures come with fewer risks and downtime than traditional surgery. Fibroid treatment with your Northwestern OB GYN is generally an outpatient procedure. The recovery time is very quick. Side effects may include abdominal pain or cramping, vaginal bleeding, nausea, or lightheadedness. Since no incision is needed for hysteroscopy, there is no abdominal wound to care for or to cause discomfort. Laparosocpy and robotic surgery involves small incisions and a quicker recovery time than open incisions. Any discomfort patients do experience is minimal and will subside.
For more information on uterine fibroids and our minimally invasive treatment, contact your Northwestern gynecologist for an appointment. Call 312-440-9400.