About Uterine Fibroids

General Information

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous (benign) tumors that grow on the wall of the uterus. These dense, rubbery masses can be microscopic or, in rare cases, grow to fill the entire abdominal cavity.

Pain caused by uterine fibroids can be mild or severe. The pain may be constant or may come and go. The only way to know if pain is caused by uterine fibroids is to be checked by your physician and have the appropriate imaging exams.

Facts About Uterine Fibroids

Here are some facts about uterine fibroids:

  • Uterine fibroids very rarely develop into cancer.
  • Uterine fibroids are the most common, benign tumors in women of childbearing age.
  • As many as 75% of American women have uterine fibroids, with as many as 40% of American women suffering from symptoms of them.
  • The average age for uterine fibroids to become symptomatic is 35-50.
  • African American women are more likely to have uterine fibroids than women of other racial groups. They have uterine fibroids at a younger age. Fibroids in African American women also tend to be larger.
  • Uterine fibroids are linked to high estrogen production. So they may grow faster when a woman is pregnant or taking birth control pills.
  • Uterine fibroids shrink after menopause when hormone levels decrease.

Risk Factors and Symptoms

Risk Factors for Uterine Fibroids

The cause of uterine fibroids is unknown. Studies have not proven many risk factors.

Identified risk factors for uterine fibroids include:

  • Being of reproductive age
  • Being African American

Reducing the Risk

There is little scientific advice on how to prevent uterine fibroids. Fortunately, only a small percentage of uterine fibroids require treatment.

Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids

Common symptoms of uterine fibroids include the following:

  • Pelvic pain – at rest or during intercourse
  • Heavy bleeding during menstruation
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Pressure on the bowel or bladder
  • Infertility or multiple miscarriages

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing Uterine Fibroids

There are several exams your physician may perform or order to detect uterine fibroids. A pelvic ultrasound is a painless exam that shows pictures of the uterus via sound waves. Through this exam, a radiologist can see and measure uterine fibroids. Your physician may also request an MRI or CT scan to detect uterine fibroids.

Treating this Condition

There are several treatments available to decrease or remove uterine fibroids, including hysterectomy and myomectomy (uterus-sparing surgical removal of a fibroid.)

Fibroid embolization is a minimally-invasive radiology procedure that has proven successful in treating most uterine fibroids. It shrinks fibroids while leaving the uterus unharmed and potentially preserves fertility.

Since uterine fibroids grow slowly and are almost always non-cancerous, you should take the time to research all your treatment options before making a decision.

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