Uterine fibroids are a common medical problem for many women, especially as they get older. In fact, one study found as many as 70 percent to 80 percent of women will develop at least one fibroid by age 50, and many women will wind up developing multiple fibroids. Most fibroids grow in the muscular wall of the middle or upper uterus, occurring less often in the lower part of the uterus or cervix (the uterine opening). Many times, they can be so small, they won’t even cause noticeable symptoms. But other times, fibroids can cause a whole host of unpleasant symptoms, including heavy bleeding, discomfort or pressure in the lower belly, and pain during intercourse.
For many years, little was known about fibroids — how and why they formed and how they could be successfully treated. But today, researchers and physicians know a lot more about uterine fibroids, and that deeper understanding has resulted in an array of treatment options to help women get the individualized care they need for symptom relief. For patients, though, there’s still a fair amount of confusion over fibroids and their treatment. If you’re confused about fibroids, here are three important facts you should know.
1. Uterine fibroids are not cancerous
Uterine fibroids are tumors, but they’re not cancerous, and very few - far fewer than 1 percent - will go on to develop into cancer. They also don’t increase your risk of uterine cancer or cervical cancer. When a lump is detected in your uterus, it can be scary. But before any treatment is provided, you’ll have a comprehensive exam and evaluation using imaging techniques or in-office, minimally-invasive exams to determine if the lump is, indeed, a fibroid.
2. Shape and size can vary — a lot
Fibroids come in lots of sizes. Some tiny fibroids are so small, they can’t be seen with the naked eye. These microscopic fibroids are referred to as seedlings, and they can grow to become larger fibroids over time. Other times, fibroids can grow to the size of a melon, distorting the shape of your lower belly and even pressing against your ribcage. Very large fibroids can cause back pain, leg pain, and problems with your bladder and bowels. Sometimes fibroids grow in toward the uterine cavity, and sometimes they grow outward. Still others can be attached to the uterine wall by a slender stalk. While fibroids are rarely associated with infertility, when they’re very large, they can interfere with pregnancy, sometimes resulting in a baby being born prematurely. Pregnant women who have fibroids need to be monitored frequently to make sure their fibroids don’t become too large.
3. Not all fibroids require treatment
When fibroids are very tiny, they often don't cause any symptoms — and that means they probably won't need to be treated. In fact, in these cases, most women don't even know they have fibroids until they're "discovered" during a routine treatment for another issue. Depending on the number of fibroids you have or their size, we may still recommend occasional monitoring to track their growth. Even when fibroids do cause minor symptoms, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll need to have a hysterectomy. Medications may be prescribed to shrink the fibroids, or the fibroids may be removed during a minimally-invasive procedure like myomectomy, which removes the fibroid, or treated with a uterine artery embolization, a procedure that cuts off the blood supply to the fibroid.
Get the relief you need for your fibroid symptoms
Uterine fibroids may be relatively common, but that doesn’t mean they’re a “normal” occurrence or something you have to “learn to live with.” At Solace Women's Care, we offer an array of treatment options for symptomatic uterine fibroids, helping women relieve discomfort, heavy bleeding, and other symptoms, so they can feel healthier and enjoy a better quality of life. If you have uterine fibroids or if you’re experiencing symptoms associated with fibroids, we can help. To learn more about the fibroid treatment options we offer, contact the practice today.