Properly diagnosing uterine fibroids is the first step to treating fibroid symptoms. And the right diagnostic tools can affect women’s choice of treatment.
Proper fibroid diagnosis is critical
A number of physical problems can cause long periods, painful cramping, pain during sex, and other menstrual problems. For example, while these can be symptoms of fibroids, they can also be signs of endometriosis, cervical cancer, adenomyosis, and more. Even to the doctor, the exact issue may not be immediately apparent.
A pelvic exam may give some indications of what the issue might be. However, in order to diagnose the exact cause of symptoms, a gynecologist will likely use one or more imaging techniques. These will help get a clear picture of what is going on.
A pelvic ultrasound is often the front-line procedure in diagnosing uterine fibroids and fibroid pain. After the physical pelvic exam, the doctor will often order a pelvic ultrasound to see inside the uterus.
The ultrasound uses sound waves, often paired with saline infusion sonography (in which saline is put in the uterus), to form a picture. This image can help doctors diagnose fibroids even if they are too small to have been felt during the pelvic exam. The pelvic ultrasound provides a look at the presence of fibroids, their location, and the overall state of the uterus lining and ovaries.
However, while a pelvic ultrasound can identify problems within the uterus, it cannot give doctors a clear enough picture of what exactly those problems are.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
In order to more accurately diagnose any issues identified through the pelvic ultrasound, an MRI is often necessary. An MRI uses both a magnetic field and radio waves to form a detailed picture that can help doctors accurately diagnose your problems as symptoms of fibroids or symptoms of some other problem — like a cancerous tumor or a condition such as adenomyosis.
The images provided by the MRI have proven to be extremely effective in helping women choose the best course of treatment for fibroids in the uterus.
MRI and fibroid treatment choices
An MRI and a pelvic ultrasound are often paired to give doctors the clearest understanding of fibroid symptoms.
Clinical Imaging published a study that explored the impact MRIs had on the treatment option selected. After conducting MRIs, of the 68 women who suffered from uterine fibroids, 28 percent changed their treatment choice after the MRI.
If you choose UFE as your fibroid treatment
When you go to see a doctor to decide if uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is the right treatment for your fibroids, you will probably need to bring an MRI with you. This procedure will give your interventional radiologist the information they need to understand your uterine fibroids and determine the best course of action.
Notably, the MRI is often used to watch fibroids during UFE recovery to see if blood flow returns to the fibroids (a rare occurrence, but one that may require further treatment).
Not everyone can get MRIs
Unfortunately, MRIs do not work for every woman suffering from symptoms that might be fibroids. In some parts of the country, this procedure is difficult to access. Its high cost can be prohibitive for women who lack health insurance to cover the procedure. Further, implanted devices (i.e. pacemakers, tubal ligation clips) prevent use of the procedure. Some women have trouble lying still for the 45 minutes required to get the MRI images.
As a result, women should understand all of their imaging options when dealing with potential symptoms of fibroids. While the MRI is often the best approach, the doctor should discuss all patient options and concerns before ordering the imaging techniques. This will lead to the most effective course of diagnosis and treatment.
Viva Eve understands all the options
The doctors at Viva Eve have years of experience with uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). Therefore, we can properly diagnose and treat the painful or uncomfortable symptoms of fibroids or adenomyosis.
In addition, Viva Eve provides high-quality, personalized care for each and every patient we see. We’ll partner with you to determine the best course of treatment.
Sources for information referenced in this post
- Malartic, C., Morel, O., Rivain, A. L., et al. (2013). Evaluation of symptomatic uterine fibroids in candidates for uterine artery embolization: comparison between ultrasonographic and MR imaging findings in 68 consecutive patients. Clin Imaging, Jan-Feb; 37(1): 83-90.