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How do I know for sure that I have fibroids?

Dr. John C. Lipman, MD
Vascular & Interventional Radiologist

Fibroids may be discovered incidentally on a physical exam by a healthcare provider or during an imaging test (exs. pelvic ultrasound, pelvic CT scan). They may also be discovered during an investigation of symptoms which fibroids cause (exs. heavy menstrual flow, pelvic pain, increased urinary frequency) or during a female infertility workup.

Your doctor may find that you have fibroids when you see her or him for a regular pelvic exam to check your uterus, ovaries, and vagina. The doctor can feel the fibroid with her or his fingers during an ordinary pelvic exam, as a (usually painless) lump or mass on the uterus. Often, a doctor will describe how small or how large the fibroids are by comparing their size to the size your uterus would be if you were pregnant. For example, you may be told that your fibroids have made your uterus the size it would be if you were 16 weeks pregnant. Or the fibroid might be compared to fruits, nuts, or a ball, such as a grape or an orange, an acorn or a walnut, or a golf ball or a volleyball.

Your doctor can do imaging tests to confirm that you have fibroids. These are tests that create a "picture" of the inside of your body without surgery. These tests might include:

  • Ultrasound - uses sound waves to produce the picture. The ultrasound probe can be placed on the abdomen or it can be placed inside the vagina to make the picture.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - uses magnets and radio waves to produce the picture X-rays - uses a form of radiation to see into the body and produce the picture
  • Cat Scan (CT) - takes many X-ray pictures of the body from different angles for a more complete image
  • Hysterosalpingogram (hiss-tur-oh-sal-PIN-juh-gram) (HSG) or sonohysterogram (soh-noh-HISS-tur-oh-gram)—An HSG involves injecting x-ray dye into the uterus and taking x-ray pictures. A sonohysterogram involves injecting water into the uterus and making ultrasound pictures.

You might also need surgery to know for sure if you have fibroids. There are two types of surgery to do this:

  • Laparoscopy (lap-ar-OSS-koh-pee) - The doctor inserts a long, thin scope into a tiny incision made in or near the navel. The scope has a bright light and a camera. This allows the doctor to view the uterus and other organs on a monitor during the procedure. Pictures also can be made.
  • Hysteroscopy (hiss-tur-OSS-koh-pee) - The doctor passes a long, thin scope with a light through the vagina and cervix into the uterus. No incision is needed. The doctor can look inside the uterus for fibroids and other problems, such as polyps. A camera also can be used with the scope.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center has been.

Dr. Kevin W. Windom, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Fibroids are diagnosed by a gynecologic exam as well as with the help of a pelvic ultrasound. When a patient comes to my office, if during the pelvic exam I notice enlargement of the uterus, it is very common that I will order an ultrasound. If the ultrasound does show fibroids, I will discuss the findings with my patient as well as show her pictures of the fibroids. Then we can start the discussion of the possible treatment options for her.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.