Uterine fibroids are tumors that grow in a woman's womb (uterus). These growths are typically not cancerous (benign).
Leiomyoma; Fibromyoma; Myoma; Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are common. As many as 1 in 5 women may have fibroids during their childbearing years. Half of all women have fibroids by age 50.
Fibroids are rare in women under age 20. They are more common in African-Americans than Caucasians.
No one knows exactly what causes fibroids. They are thought to be caused by:
Fibroids can be so tiny that you need a microscope to see them. They can also grow to be very large. They may fill the entire uterus and may weigh several pounds. Although it is possible for just one fibroid to develop, usually there are more than one.
Fibroids can grow:
Common symptoms of uterine fibroids are:
Often, you can have fibroids and not have any symptoms. Your health care provider may find them during a physical exam or other test. Fibroids often shrink and cause no symptoms in women who have gone through menopause.
Your health care provider will perform a pelvic exam. This may show that you have a change in the shape of your womb.
Fibroids are not always easy to diagnose. Being obese may make fibroids harder to detect. Your provider may do these tests to look for fibroids:
If you have unusual bleeding, your provider may do one of these procedures:
What type of treatment you have depends on:
Treatment for the symptoms of fibroids may include:
Surgery and procedures used to treat fibroids include:
The National Uterine Fibroid Foundation offers an online support group -- www.nuff.org
If you have fibroids without symptoms, you may not need treatment. Menopause typically causes fibroids to shrink.
If you have fibroids, they may grow if you become pregnant. This is due to the increased blood flow and higher estrogen levels. The fibroids usually return to their original size after your baby is born.
Some fibroids are cancerous (malignant). One rare type, called leiomyosarcomas, look exactly like fibroids. It can be difficult to tell the difference until they are surgically removed. There is a very small chance that a fibroid will actually be cancerous. Talk with your health care provider about this rare form of cancer.
Complications of fibroids include:
If you are pregnant, there's a small risk that fibroids may cause complications. These include:
Call your health care provider if you have:
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Reviewed By: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.