- Fibroids are classified by numbers based on their location in the womb.
- Heavy Periods is the most common symptom. It is usually due to large fibroids or fibroids that are near the menstruation area like Type 0,1,2 fibroids.
- Fibroids can cause Infertility and Miscarriage, especially those close to the center of the womb like Type 0,1,2 fibroids.
- Large fibroids can press on the bladder to cause Pressure and Frequent Urination. They can also cause a Bloatedness feeling. In severe cases, fibroid can block urination or cause severe constipation.
- Some fibroids may cause Pain when they undergo a process called degeneration.
Fibroids without symptoms and < 4cm may not need treatment
Oral Meds (SPRM) taken daily, can shrink fibroids over 6 months with minimal side effects.
There is now a revolutionary class of medicine available for the treatment of fibroids. It is called the Selective Progesterone Receptor Modulators (SPRM). This SPRM comes as an oral tablet and works by blocking the body’s receptors to the hormone Progesterone.
Progesterone is responsible for the growth and cell function of fibroid. So when SPRM blocks Progesterone, it stops fibroid growth and shrinks fibroids permanently by a process called apoptosis. Up to 80% of fibroids can shrink by half its volume, over 6 months.
SPRM has minimal side effects of headache and hot flushes in less than 10% of women. It can be used as long term treatment to shrink fibroids. It has been shown to be safe for women planning to get pregnant and it does not cause cancer.
Blood test to ensure normal liver function should be done when you are taking SPRM.
Injection GnRH can shrink fibroids over 3 months for surgery.
GnRH injection causes a temporary state of menopause by blocking all female hormones. During this induced-menopause state, fibroids start to shrink by up to 50% in 3 months. When the GnRH injection wears off, the fibroids will grow back to its original size.
GnRH does not shrink fibroids permanently. So before it re-grows, very large fibroids can then be surgically removed by keyhole surgery rather than traditional open surgery.
GnRH can cause severe menopause side effects like hot flushes, mood swings and sleep disturbances. It can cause osteoporosis if used for more than 6 months. Hence GnRH is only used as a short term treatment
Uterine Artery Embolisation (UAE) blocks blood supply to fibroids to shrink them.
UAE is a procedure done by specially-trained Radiologist. Under X-ray guidance, a catheter is placed into the groin blood vessel to reach the blood vessels of the fibroid. Particles are then injected to block the blood supply of the fibroid.
Once deprived of blood supply, the fibroid will shrink permanently over 6 months. UAE is good for women wishing to avoid surgery. UAE is not advised for women wanting pregnancy.
The immediate side effects are moderate to severe pain, possible infection and bleeding. The long term side effects are loss of menstruation, early menopause and failed fibroid treatment.
High Intensity Focus Ultrasound (HIFU) uses strong ultrasound beam to burn fibroids to shrink them.
This treatment uses high intensity ultrasound beams to target the fibroids. The ultrasound beams heat up the fibroids to 55-90 degC, causing cell death.
Treatment duration is dependant on the size of the fibroids. The immediate side effects are moderate cramps, fever or potential skin burns. Fibroids usually shrink by 30-50%, of the initial volume, in 6-12 months.
HIFU has been shown to be safe for women wishing to get pregnant. However, it may not be suitable for women with abdomen or pelvic surgical scars.