Remember back in grade school when your health teacher covered uterine fibroids? Neither do we. Up to 80% of women are likely to get them in their lifetime, but uterine fibroids aren't standard info covered in basic women's health classes or forums.
So, we at Eve Medical of Miami in Miami, Florida, want to fill the gaps in your Women's Bodies 101 education. Here's your ultimate guide to uterine fibroids.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop in the uterus. They're the most common uterine tumor, affecting 70-80% of women by age 50. They can also be called leiomyomas or myomas.
These growths comprise muscle and fibrous tissue, ranging from tiny to very large. In many cases, they attach to the uterine wall with a thin stem or stalk, giving them a mushroom-like appearance.
Fibroids can grow in a few places inside and outside your uterus. For instance, submucosal fibroids grow inside your uterus, extending down into the empty space in the middle of your uterus; intramural fibroids embed into the wall of your uterus; subserosal fibroids grow on the outside of your uterus; and pedunculated fibroids can grow inside or outside your uterus.
The location, size, and number of your fibroids are key pieces of information that drive your treatment plan.
Fibroids aren't cancerous, but they can mimic the symptoms of a rare form of cancer called uterine sarcoma. The only way to detect this type of cancer is through a biopsy of the fibroid, so if you have fibroids, we'll walk you through some of the risks associated with uterine sarcoma during your appointment.
Scientists are still unsure what causes fibroids to develop, but they're most common during a woman's reproductive years. Certain factors can increase your risk of developing them. These factors include:
Fibroids are most common in women between 30 and 50 years of age.
If your mother or sister has had fibroids, you're more likely to develop them.
Estrogen and progesterone stimulate uterine lining growth during your menstrual cycles, and excessive amounts of these hormones can also stimulate the growth of fibroids.
Fibroids are most common among African American women.
Being overweight or obese can increase a woman's risk of developing fibroids. Starting menopause late and getting your period at a young age can also increase your risk of fibroids.
Much of the time, uterine fibroids do not create symptoms. However, for those who do, the symptoms can be quite bothersome.
Heavy menstrual flow is the most common symptom. Some other telltale signs of uterine fibroids include:
In the rarest cases, fibroids can cause infertility or miscarriage. Many believe that having fibroids counts them out from starting a family, but the truth is, you can still get pregnant and carry your baby to full term if you have fibroids.
If you're experiencing symptoms of uterine fibroids, we start by performing a routine pelvic exam to check for any abnormalities in your uterus. Other tests we use to diagnose uterine fibroids include:
We thoroughly explain every test we perform, so you know exactly what to expect from each stage of the diagnostic process.
In the past, many doctors would skip treatment and opt for a hysterectomy, but these days, many more options are available. Sometimes, if you have small fibroids and aren't experiencing any symptoms, we might take the wait-and-see approach and monitor your fibroids over time.
Our recommended treatment for uterine fibroids depends on the severity of your symptoms and the size and location of your fibroids. It often includes medication to manage symptoms or minimally invasive procedures to remove the fibroids.
In more severe cases, we may recommend surgery to remove or eradicate your fibroids, or you may need a hysterectomy.
If you suspect you may have uterine fibroids, don't hesitate to request an appointment online or over the phone with us today.