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Uterine Fibroids (Leiomyomas)

Woman with uterine fibroids researches treatment options

What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids, also called leiomyomas or myomas, are growths inside the uterus. They are non-cancerous, and they often occur in women of childbearing age (18 to 40). Uterine fibroids rarely develop into cancer and having fibroids does not increase a woman’s risk of uterine cancer.

There are different classifications of uterine fibroids:

  • Intramural fibroids: Developing in the uterine wall.
  • Submucosal fibroids: Protruding into the uterine cavity.
  • Subserosal fibroids: Bulging outside of the uterus.

How big are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids range in size from very small – so small they can’t be seen without magnification – to so large that they enlarge the size of the uterus. Women can have only one fibroid or multiple fibroids.

What causes uterine fibroids?

The exact cause of uterine fibroids is not known. Experts believe that uterine fibroids begin in a stem cell in the myometrium, which is the smooth muscles of the uterus. As this cell divides, it creates a mass that is different from the nearby tissue. This mass is a uterine fibroid.

There are some factors that seem to increase a woman’s risk for developing fibroids:

How are uterine fibroids detected?

Some uterine fibroids may never be detected, but larger fibroids or those that cause symptoms are often felt during a pelvic exam or seen on an imaging test, like an ultrasound.

Common Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids

Most fibroids don’t cause any symptoms, so they often go undetected. If you do have symptoms, you may experience:

  • Heavy bleeding during menstruation
  • Longer than normal menstrual cycles (more than a week).
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Urinary problems, like frequent urination or difficulty emptying the bladder all the way.
  • Constipation
  • Back or leg pain

Women who bleed excessively from fibroids may become anemic due to blood loss.

Uterine Fibroid Risk Factors

There are not many known risks for developing uterine fibroids. Any woman of reproductive age may develop them. It does seem that there are a few factors that may increase your risk. Those are:

  • Family history and heredity: If your mother or a sister has or had fibroids, your risk may be greater.
  • Race: African American women are at higher risk for developing uterine fibroids, and if they do develop them, they’re more likely to have larger fibroids or multiple fibroids.

Other factors that may have an impact on developing fibroids:

  • Early onset of menstruation
  • Hormonal birth control use
  • Obesity
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Alcohol consumption
  • A diet high in red meat and low in fruit, green vegetables, and dairy.

Is there a way to avoid uterine fibroids?

There is no known way to avoid developing uterine fibroids as long as you have your uterus. However, maintaining a healthy weight and making certain lifestyle choices (like eating a diet high in vegetables and fruits and low in red meat) may decrease your risk.

Uterine Fibroids Treatment

Many women who have uterine fibroids do not need treatment. However, if you have fibroids, and they are causing concerning symptoms, you should talk with your doctor about a treatment plan.

There are many treatment options:

Find an OB-GYN that treats uterine fibroids, call 800-633-7377, or make an appointment with an Interventional Radiologist.