What are Fibroids?

You may have heard of the term - fibroids. They are also called uterine leiomyomas or myomas. Fibroids are growths, or tumors, of muscle in the uterus (composed of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue).

Are fibroids common?

Yes! Very common. Studies have shown that about 80% of women will have a fibroid during their life. Many don’t know they have fibroids unless they have symptoms! Fibroids can range from being pea-sized to less commonly watermelon-sized. Also, there are different types of fibroids, classified based on where the fibroids are located. Fibroids can grow on the outside of the uterus, within the wall of the uterus, or into the inside of the uterus.

Are fibroids cancerous?

Fibroids are almost always non-cancerous. Rarely, fibroids can begin as cancer. It is important to discuss your fibroids with your provider.

What causes fibroids?

Unfortunately, we don’t have this answer. There may be many influences - genes that run in families, lifestyle factors, and hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Fibroids grow and shrink at different rates.

Who is at risk for fibroids?

Anyone can develop fibroids, but fibroids are more common in one’s 30s up to menopause, in those who have a family history of fibroids, in those who are African-American, and in those who are obese.

What symptoms are from fibroids?

Many fibroids are small and do not cause symptoms. Larger fibroids cause symptoms more often. The most common symptoms include increased menstrual bleeding (both amount and/or number of days) and pelvic pressure or pain (feeling of fullness in the abdomen or pressure on the bladder). There are other symptoms such as low back pain or pain during intercourse.

Can I get pregnant with fibroids?

Yes! Most people can become pregnant even with fibroids. Some fibroids may distort the inside of the uterus and make it more difficult to become pregnant. It is important to discuss your fibroids with your provider prior to becoming pregnant.

How are fibroids diagnosed?

Fibroids can be suspected on a pelvic exam if the uterus feels large or has an irregular contour. A pelvic ultrasound usually confirms that fibroids are present. An MRI can often provide more detailed imaging of fibroids.

Do all fibroids need treatment? What are the treatments?

If fibroids do not cause symptoms, most do not need treatment. Many choose observation because fibroids can shrink over time, especially as one approaches menopause. The treatment may depend on what symptoms bother the patient most as well as age, fertility plans, other health conditions, and number/size/location of the fibroids. Examples of medical treatment options include NSAIDs (i.e. ibuprofen or naproxen) for pain and hormonal birth control for bleeding and pain. Also, iron supplementation may be recommended for those with anemia from heavy bleeding. Examples of surgical treatment options include a myomectomy, which is a surgery that can be performed through a large incision or minimally invasively to remove entire fibroids, or a uterine artery embolization, which can block the blood supply to fibroids. There are many other medical and surgical treatments and these are just a few. A discussion of fibroids, symptoms, and treatment options should take place with one’s provider for a personalized treatment plan.

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