Fibroids 101

Firstly a disclaimer, I’m no expert on the topic of fibroids. But I have my share of experiences with it, so what I’m sharing stems from my personal encounter with it.

It’s been 3 weeks since my op where I had the fibroids that were growing in my uterus removed. This is my second operation as I did a similar op back in 2004.  Just when I thought removing 16 fibroids for my first operation was a big deal. The doctor totally shocked the socks off me when he told me he removed a grand total of 33 fibroids this time – making me the record holder in Raffles Hospital as well as among his patients. Not exactly a record I was hoping to break.

Curious to know how fibroids look like? (Mouse here for link. Warning: Photos may be too graphic and cause you to lose your appetite! not for the faint hearted)

As I had friends who asked me what fibroids were and how one could tell if they were having it, I decided to post an entry to create more awareness about it.

Seek a second opinion if you have to. The information is from my experience as well as articles from the Internet. If you suspect you may fibroid from the symptoms mentioned below, please visit your doctor and have it examined.

What are fibroids?

Fibroid  are solid tumors which are made of fibrous tissue, hence the name ‘fibroid’ tumor. Fibroids are mostly non-cancerous affecting as many as one in four women.

What are the symptoms of fibroids?

Fibroids are the most common benign tumors in females and typically found during the middle and later reproductive years.

Depending on the size and location of the fibroids, there may or may not be any symptoms. But fibroids can cause the following symptoms:

  • Heavy bleeding or painful periods
  • Bleeding in between periods
  • Feeling “full” in the lower abdomen – sometimes called “pelvic pressure”
  • Urinating often (results from a fibroid pressing on the bladder)
  • Lower back pain
  • Infertility

The first time I discovered I had fibroid was in 2004. I experienced pressure on my bladder which made it painful each time I peed. And I often had a feeling that I had to pee again after visiting the toilet 5 mins ago! I was also prone to getting bad menstrual cramps, another sign of fibroid. After getting an ultra sound, the doctor confirmed that it was due to the fibroids that were situated above my bladder.

Subsequently, when I was pregnant in 2008, the gyne found fibroids growing again. The biggest one was then 5cm, so I was closely monitored. But I didn’t have them removed as it would complicate the pregnancy neither did the gyne remove them when I delivered via Ceasaren as she was worried I may lose too much blood.

More recently in my routine check up this year, the gyne found that the fibroids were growing too fast and too many so she suggested that I do an op to remove them in case they were dangerous. I did have other tell tale signs like a very bloated lower abdomen as well as blood clots and cramps that extended all the way to my lower back during my periods.

Must fibroids be removed?

Surgery should not be recommened as the first option as it depends if the fibroids are causing any significant symptoms that needs treatment. Other factors to consider are age, if you are in your reproductive years, if you are keen to have children, the size, number and location of fibroids.

Generally if one is nearing menopause, the doc will advice a wait and see approach as they tend to shrink.

My gyne recommended removing them as I had more than 5 fibroids and theye were growing fast and furious. In addition we are also planning for another baby. The location of the fibroids were also not ideal as it may hinder the fetus should I get pregnant.

What are the surgery options ?

Myomectomy – surgical removal of the fibroid without damage to the uterus, preserving a woman’s ability to conceive. However, fibroids will often grow back and although it is possible to have a myomectomy repeated, multiple myomectomies can cause other problems such as the walls of the uterus sticking together due to scarring.

This is the surgery I did for both occasions.

Hysterectomy– the removal of the womb together with the fibroids. This guarantees no more bleeding and no regrowth of fibroids.

This was what my mom opted as she already had 3 kids and it was time to “close shop”.

Both of the procedures can be performed by the laparoscopic approach or more commonly known as  laser as well as by the conventional open surgery depending on the size of the fibroid, its location, the doctors’ experience.

Uterine artery embalization– a relatively new procedure that uses minimally invasive means of blocking the arteries that supply blood to the fibroids. The blockage of the blood supply causes degeneration of the fibroids and this results  in resolution of their symptoms. However according to my gyne this is not recommended if you plan to have children as most women who choose to do this were mostly done with childbearing or were not planning to have children. Hence the risks in pregnancy are not very telling.

Does fibroids cause infertility?

Only about 10 per cent of fibroid cases contribute to the inability to conceive. This can depend on factors like the location, size and number of fibroid.

For us, it took us 1 year to conceive Sophie. It could be contributed to a combination of factors like timing, stress and maybe the fibroids. But thankfully, the fibroids did not cause any problem during my pregnancy which even surprised my gyne. (Praise the Lord!)

Other facts about fibroids

  • The condition is about twice as common in black women as white women. According to recent research, Asian women are least likely to have uterine fibroids due to the diet and their overall lower body fat ratio.
  • Fibroids are dependent on estrogen and progesterone to grow and therefore relevant only during the reproductive years, they are expected to shrink after menopause.
  • Fibroids also appear to have a hereditary component in that they tend to occur within many or all of the women in a particular family. (Same goes for mine as my mom, grandma, great grandma also had it. But I’m praying and believing it stops at me, Amen!)
  • April 17 to 23 is Fibroid Awareness Week.

I’m still recovering from the surgery as I faced a little complication with an infection due to a blood clot which made my wound swell for the past 3 weeks. Hopefully it will subside soon.

Want to know more? I’ll be posting another entry on my  myomectomy operation experience as well as after care from a myomectomy op.

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Comments: 7

  1. […] my earlier entry about my experience with fibroids, I mentioned that under my gyne’s recommendation, I did an open myomectomy operation to have […]

  2. Judy December 15, 2012 at 12:02 am Reply

    Whomis your gynae at raffles hospital? My period is too close together

    • Susan December 16, 2012 at 5:33 pm Reply

      Hi Judy,

      I’ve send you a reply via email. Do hope you get answers to your health.

  3. judy December 16, 2012 at 10:55 pm Reply

    Thanks for your reply. has seen dr tan….hope to delay hysterectomy as we hope to have another child

  4. […] Fibroids 101 […]

  5. veryworried December 25, 2015 at 7:04 pm Reply

    Hi Susan, I was diagnosed with a 8.8cm fibroid last month and had been having massive bleeding’s worrying as it lasted for 3 weeks and still not ending… I went for a private gynae but the medicine didn’t lessen the flow…the coming Monday I will have an appointment with kkh. Most probably they will suggest surgery. How much is the cost of it? At wit end donno what to do…

    • Susan December 27, 2015 at 11:15 pm Reply

      Hi, my surgery was done in a private hospital so the charges are towards the higher end and it depends on the doc doing the operation as well as the hospital ward. If you’re working, you may get a referral letter from your company doctor to the specialist in KKH and you may be able to get it covered by your company’s insurance. Did the doc give you any progesterone jab or tranexamic acid tablets to stop the flow? For me, I had this bleeding issue last year and the bleeding persisted so a surgery was needed. You can read about it here, Hopefully all goes well for you and speedy recovery.

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