Fibroids are noncancerous growths that form inside the uterus during a woman's childbearing years, especially after the age of 30.
Fibroids can range in size from tiny growths you can barely see with the naked eye to much larger, bulkier masses.
While up to 80 percent of women may develop fibroids at some point, most won't even know of their presence.
In most cases, uterine fibroids will shrink and go away without the need for medical treatment. But they may also keep growing, which could cause pain and other unpleasant symptoms.
No, fibroids are not cancerous.
And having them doesn't increase your risk of getting cancer.
The main risk factor for uterine fibroids is age. Women in their 30s and 40s through menopause are most at risk for getting them.
Other fibroid risk factors may include:
Women who have a decreased risk of fibroids are those who:
The exact cause of uterine fibroids is unknown.
But doctors believe that the estrogen and progesterone hormones may cause them to form and grow. Genetics may also be a factor.
There are many possible fibroid symptoms, including:
Fibroids are not life-threatening.
But based on their location in the uterus and their size, they can cause pain and discomfort, which treatment can relieve.
You should think about seeing your doctor for fibroid symptoms if you:
Doctors use a range of methods to detect fibroids.
Often, they may notice irregularities in the shape of the uterus during a routine pelvic exam and will order testing.
An ultrasound test can normally confirm the existence of fibroids.
If you have heavy menstrual bleeding, your doctor may also order a complete blood count. This can tell them if excessive blood loss has led to anemia.
Many times, fibroid symptoms may be mild enough that you don't need any type of treatment.
Your doctor can check fibroid growth or shrinkage during yearly pelvic exams.
Your doctor may prescribe medicine to:
In cases of severe fibroid pain or complications, noninvasive or minimally invasive surgery can destroy them without having to remove them.
If fibroids grow to a very large size or get deeply embedded in the uterus, you may need more invasive fibroid surgery.
Surgery to remove fibroids include:
Fibroids can grow during the first trimester of pregnancy but then shrink.
Many women with fibroids have few or no problems.
But they could cause complications during pregnancy, such as:
Fibroids don't necessarily affect fertility. But if they grow inside the uterus and change its shape, it may make it hard to get pregnant.
Surgery may be an option to remove the fibroid.
Contact UPMC in Central Pa. to learn more about uterine fibroids and treatment options.
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