Fibroids, sometimes referred to as myomas, are growths or benign tumours that form inside the uterus (womb). Around 4 in 10 women over the age of 40 years will have fibroids. While the exact aetiology of fibroid development is unknown, it is thought that the sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, play key roles. This is because fibroids rarely grow in girls before puberty and women after menopause. Pre-existing fibroids stop growing and can even shrink in women after menopause.
Fortunately, most women with fibroids do not have symptoms. When symptoms are present, they can include heavy and painful periods, spotting between periods, pain during sex, feeling pressure in the back, bowel and bladder, frequent urination and swelling in the lower abdomen.
Treatment depends on the size, number and location of the fibroids. Conservative management involves undergoing regular surveillance with MRI and ultrasound and medication. Interventional procedures including Arterial Embolisation, Hysteroscopy, Laparoscopy, Open Surgery or Hysterectomy can also be performed (see our procedures pages for further information on any of these surgical treatments).
Fibroids can be detected using an ultrasound, where sound waves are used create a two-dimensional picture of their size and location. Alternatively, the inside of the uterus can be seen with a hysteroscope, which is a thin tube that is passed through the cervix (entrance to the womb). This hysteroscope allows the gynaecologist to view the inside of the uterus on a high definition monitor. Only fibroids that are protruding into the cavity of the womb can be visualised on hysteroscopy.