By the age of 50, about 50% of women will have suffered from fibroids; many of whom would never have known the fibroids existed if it weren’t for advanced diagnostic techniques. When women present with symptoms of fibroids, including heavy menstrual bleeding and prolonged menstrual bleeding, medical tests are ordered to determine the case or rule out specific common causes. Some of the tests used to diagnose fibroids include ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-ray and Cat scan (CT).
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses waves of sound to create an image of internal body structures. Most women are familiar with ultrasound technology from a pregnancy perspective, but the technology can also be used as a diagnostic tool. The ultrasound can provide a look into the uterus and surrounding structures. If fibroids are present there is a good chance the ultrasound will pick up the image.
- MRI: MRI uses radio waves and magnets to create a more detailed or precise picture than an ultrasound. MRI scans may be used in place of ultrasound or in addition to ultrasound when diagnosing fibroids.
- X-rays: X-rays are the simplest form of medical imaging, but they can be effective in the diagnosis of fibroids is the fibroid is large enough and the radiologist takes a picture at just the right angle. X-ray may be used as the first image test for some patients. X-ray can also be used to track the size of a previously diagnosed fibroid once doctors know the exact location of the growth.
- CT: CT scans provide doctors with a multi-angle image created from multiple X-rays.
- Hysterosalpingogram: X-ray dye is injected into the uterus before X-ray images are taken for diagnosis of fibroids.
- Sonohysterogram: Water is injected into the uterus before an ultrasound is performed.
Not all diagnostic tools rely on capturing an image of fibroids. If imaging suggests fibroids are present or the patient has symptoms common in fibroid patients the doctor may suggest surgery.
- Laparoscopy: During a laparoscopy a small incision is made near the belly button. A thin wand scope is inserted through the hole into the abdominal cavity. The scope sends images to a computer screen in the operating room.
- Hysteroscopy: A hysteroscopy is similar to a laparoscopy, but there is no incision. The thin wand scope is passed through the cervix via the vagina into the abdominal cavity. Images from the scope are viewed on a computer screen.
Fibroids can be extremely painful for some women. Diagnosis can be as simple as a pelvic exam or as involved as an X-ray, CT scan or MRI. The most common diagnostic tool is the ultrasound.