It’s a common condition for women. More than 70 percent of women will develop fibroids by age 50.
They’re sometimes known as uterine fibroids, uterine myomas, leiomyomas or fibromas. They’re the most common type of tumor found in the female reproductive system.
Not all are diagnosed because only about a third of fibroids are big enough to be found during a physical exam.
Fibroids are firm, compact tumors made of muscle cells and other tissues. They grow in or around the wall of the uterus — the womb. They can be as small as a pea or as big as a softball.
In more than 99 percent of cases, fibroid tumors are benign (non-cancerous). They don’t increase your risk for uterine cancer.
The cause of fibroids is unknown. The estrogen in the uterus may spur a tumor to grow from abnormal muscle cells.
Fibroids are most common in women age 30 to 40. Women who are African American or overweight are at higher risk for fibroids.
Many women have fibroids but have no symptoms. Others have bothersome or painful symptoms. If you have fibroids, indications may include:
The primary way to diagnose a fibroid is through a health care provider’s routine pelvic exam. The provider may feel a firm, irregular pelvic mass. Your provider may also use imaging tests such as X-ray, ultrasound or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to check for fibroids.
When women have fibroids, they typically stop growing or may even shrink as menopause approaches. Treatment may not be necessary.
If you have fibroids, your health care provider may suggest “watchful waiting.” That’s when your provider periodically checks the fibroid(s) to keep track of growth and/or the appearance of new fibroids. The checks can be done during your regular health checkups.
However, if fibroids grow to a significant size or cause more serious symptoms, medical treatment may be necessary. Your health care provider will recommend a treatment based on:
Treatments may include medical, surgical or radiological options. Here are some of your treatment options:
Medical treatments may provide only temporary relief. Once you stop treatment, fibroids may return.
Additional treatments are also available if those above aren’t appropriate.
If you notice fibroid symptoms, see your health care provider.
If you develop fibroids, you may want to see a specialist. Your provider can suggest a provider who’s qualified to treat fibroids.
A specialized fibroid clinic is now open at Aurora Sinai Medical Center. If you’re in the area, ask your provider about visiting Aurora Sinai’s new fibroid unit or another fibroid treatment center in your area. Aurora is a not-for-profit health care organization.
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