If your GP suspects fibroids, they'll 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, because they often don't cause any symptoms.
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.
Two types of ultrasound scan can be used to help diagnose fibroids:
- an abdominal ultrasound scan – where the ultrasound probe is moved over the outside of your tummy (abdomen)
- a transvaginal ultrasound scan – where a small 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 you have fibroids, you may be referred to a gynaecologist (a specialist in the female reproductive system) for the tests described below.
A hysteroscopy is where a small telescope (hysteroscope) is inserted into your womb through the vagina and cervix, so your doctor can examine the inside of your womb. It takes about five minutes to carry out.
A local anaesthetic or general anaesthetic may be used so you won't feel any pain during the procedure. However, most women don't need anaesthetic. Some women experience cramping during the procedure.
A hysteroscopy is most often used to look for fibroids within your womb (submucosal fibroids).
A laparoscope is a small telescope with a light source and camera at one end. The camera relays images of the inside of the abdomen or pelvis to a television monitor.
During a laparoscopy, a surgeon will make a small incision in your abdomen. The laparoscope will be passed into your abdomen to allow the organs and tissues inside your abdomen or pelvis to be examined. General anaesthetic is used, so you'll 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.
In some cases, a small tissue sample (biopsy) may be removed during a hysteroscopy or laparoscopy for closer examination under a microscope.