The UPMC Magee Fibroid Treatment Center combines the expertise of board-certified gynecologists and interventional radiologists with extensive experience in this minimally invasive procedure. These specialists offer consultation services for women seeking information and treatment options for uterine fibroids.
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths in the wall of the uterus, and are the most frequently diagnosed tumor of the female pelvis. They are not associated with cancer, do not increase a woman's risk of developing cancer, and almost never develop into cancer.
Fibroids are nodules of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that grow within the wall of the uterus (womb). The medical term for fibroids is uterine leiomyomata (multiple fibroid tumors) or leiomyoma (single fibroid tumor).
Other names for fibroid tumors include:
Approximately 40 to 60 percent of women of childbearing age have fibroids, but it is suspected that this number is much higher. Many women do not have symptoms and are not aware that they have the condition. In fact, most fibroids are discovered during a routine pelvic exam or during prenatal care. Only about 25 percent of women with uterine fibroids experience symptoms.
These symptoms can include:
- Excessive or painful bleeding during menstruation or bleeding between periods.
- A feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen.
- Frequent urination from fibroids pressing on the bladder.
- Pain during sexual intercourse, or low back pain.
- Reproductive symptoms such as infertility, recurrent spontaneous abortion, and early onset of labor during pregnancy have also been associated with fibroids. In rare cases, a fibroid can compress and block the fallopian tube, preventing fertilization and migration of the ovum (egg).
Uterine fibroids may grow as a single nodule or in clusters, and range in size from a pea to larger than a cantaloupe. Fibroid growth seems to be controlled by hormones, especially estrogen. They are seldom seen in young women who have not started menstruation and may expand rapidly during pregnancy when estrogen levels are high. They usually shrink or stop growing after menopause when estrogen levels decrease. Other hormones, such as progesterone, may also affect fibroid growth.
It is not clear why fibroids occur, although heredity seems to play a role. Women with a family history of fibroids are more likely to develop the condition. The vast majority of fibroids occur during childbearing years. Fibroids also occur two to three times more frequently in women of African-American descent.
Learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of uterine fibroids.