Fibroids are firm, dense tumors
made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue. They develop in the uterus.
About 1 in 5 to 1 in 2 women of reproductive age have fibroids, but not all are
diagnosed. Some estimates say that up to 3 in 10 to about 3 in 4women will have fibroids
sometime during their childbearing years. Only about one-third of these fibroids are
large enough to be found by a healthcare provider during a physical exam.
In more than 9 in 10 fibroid cases,
the tumors are not cancer. These tumors are not linked to cancer and don't increase a
woman's risk for uterine cancer. They may be as small as a pea to as large as a
softball or small grapefruit.
Doctors don't know what causes
uterine fibroids. It may be that each tumor develops from an abnormal muscle cell in the
uterus. This cell multiplies rapidly because of the effect of estrogen.
Women who are nearing menopause are
at the greatest risk for fibroids. This is because of their long exposure to high levels
of estrogen. Women who are obese and of African-American background also seem to be at
higher risk. The reasons for this are not clearly understood.
Other risk factors:
Some women who have fibroids have
no symptoms. Or they have only mild symptoms. Other women have more severe symptoms.
These are the most common symptoms for uterine fibroids:
Fibroids are most often found
during a routine pelvic exam. Your healthcare provider may feel a firm, irregular pelvic
mass during an abdominal or pelvic exam. You may need other tests. These include:
Most fibroids stop growing or may
even shrink as you get near menopause. Your healthcare provider may suggest "watchful
waiting." With this approach, your healthcare provider monitors your symptoms carefully
to make sure you have no significant changes. He or she will check that the fibroids
are not growing.
If your fibroids are large or cause
a lot of symptoms, you may need treatment. Treatment will depend on your age and if you
want to get pregnant in the future.
In general, treatment for fibroids
In some cases,heavy or lengthy
periods, or abnormal bleeding between periods can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. You
will need treatment for this.
Uterine fibroids may affect the
reproductive system. They can cause infertility, increased risk for miscarriage, or
problems during pregnancy.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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