MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- For many women, experiencing unexpected, intense abdominal pressure can be a cause for immediate concern. However, they're not alone and this type of pain may be common and easily diagnosed.
Known as uterine fibroids, these benign tumors often form in the walls of the uterus, often existing completely unrecognized by women. However, seemingly overnight, these growths can suddenly trigger intense and constant discomfort.
"If you’re a woman between 35 and 50 years old and suddenly begin to experience extremely intense periods, along with pain and pressure in the abdomen, you may be among the 80 percent of women affected by uterine fibroids," said Dr. F. Michael Shaw, director of Gynecology at the Institute of Robotic Minimally Invasive Surgery at Northern Westchester Hospital.
Although women of many ages can experience fibroids, black women have a higher incidence than white women, as do those over the age of 35.
In many cases, heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, pelvic pressure or pain all serve as signs of a fibroid. In order to effectively diagnose the disorder and confirm the fibroids' presence, patients should visit their doctor and undergo a pelvic examination and pelvic ultrasound. Once identified, are variety of treatment options exist.
"Many women have fibroids that don’t require treatment," said Shaw. "However, large fibroids tend to be more uncomfortable, difficult to manage and may cause fertility issues." To reduce excessive menstrual bleeding, doctors can prescribe birth control pills, a progesterone implant in the arm called Implanon or a progesterone-containing IUD such as Mirena. For cramp relief, ibuprofen and naproxen are both effective pain killers.
In extreme cases, Shaw and his team may recommend minimally invasive surgery to remove painful fibroids. "Women may have a hysteroscopy, which involves inserting a lens into the uterus to remove fibroids from the uterine cavity, or a robotic assisted laparoscopic myomectomy depending on the location, size and number of fibroids," he said.
If women are experiencing pain, it's important not to wait. Since growth occurs on the uterus, fertility may be affected. However, making a full recovery and experiencing a normal pregnancy is very possible. "For example, I performed a robotic myomectomy to remove fibroids from a patient who had a prior pregnancy loss caused by large fibroids," said Shaw. "Today she is 32 weeks pregnant."
Although fibroids aren't preventable, taking certain precautions such as consuming a diet high in greens and low in red meat may reduce the chance of incurrence.
Visit Northern Westchester Hospital's website to learn more about the Robotic Surgery options available to patients.