Diagnosing fibroids 

If your GP suspects fibroids, they will usually carry out a pelvic examination to look for any obvious signs.

They may also refer you to a local hospital for further tests outlined below to confirm a diagnosis or rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

Sometimes fibroids are only discovered during routine gynaecological (vaginal) examinations or tests for other problems, as they often don't cause any symptoms.

Ultrasound scan

One of the main tests carried out to diagnose fibroids is an ultrasound scan. This is a painless scan that uses a probe to produce high frequency sound waves to create an image of the inside of your body.

There are two types of ultrasound scan that can be used to help diagnose fibroids. These are:

  • an abdominal ultrasound scan – where the ultrasound probe is moved over the outside of your tummy (abdomen)
  • a transvaginal ultrasound scan – where the ultrasound probe is inserted into your vagina

Images produced by these scans are transmitted to a monitor so your doctor can see if there are any signs of fibroids.

If an ultrasound scan suggests fibroids, you may be referred to a gynaecologist (a specialist in the female reproductive system) for tests described below.

Hysteroscopy

A hysteroscopy involves inserting a small telescope (hysteroscope) into your vagina so your doctor can examine the inside of your womb.

It can be carried out under local anaesthetic or general anaesthetic, so you won't feel any pain during the procedure.

A hysteroscopy is most often used to look for fibroids within your womb (submucosal fibroids).

Laparoscopy

A laparoscope is a small tube that contains a light source and a camera. The camera relays images of the inside of the abdomen or pelvis to a television monitor.

During a laparoscopy a surgeon makes a small incision in your abdomen, passes the laparoscope through the incision, and studies the organs and tissues inside the abdomen or pelvis. General anaesthetic is used, so you will be asleep during the procedure.

A laparoscopy can be used to look for fibroids outside your womb (subserosal fibroids) or fibroids in the layer of muscle surrounding the womb (intramural fibroids) that have affected its size and shape.

Biopsy

In some cases, a small tissue sample called a biopsy may be removed during a hysteroscopy or laparoscopy for closer examination under a microscope.

Page last reviewed: 02/09/2013

Next review due: 02/09/2015