Fibroid tumors are prevalent, and medical experts estimate that as many as 70% to 80% of all women have had a fibroid at one time in their life. It’s difficult to get accurate numbers because most fibroids are so small or uncompromising that they never cause problems. Also, fibroids can come and go so you may have had one in the past and never again.
Most of the time, these benign (non-cancerous) masses cause little to no issues. However, there are cases where fibroids require treatment.
10 Fibroid Facts Women Should Know
The more you know about fibroids and how to detect them, the better job your OB/GYN can do to keep an eye on them or help you determine the best course of treatment if necessary.
1. They are tumors, but they aren’t cancerous.
Fibroid tumors are non-cancerous tumors. They occur when cells excessively multiply and form a rubber-like mass on the muscular tissue of the uterus.
It’s also true that the uterus can have cancerous growths, but these are never referred to as fibroid tumors. So, if your doctor says you have fibroids, you can breathe a sigh of relief. In some cases, the physician may notice a mass that is a cause for concern. In that case, they’ll order a biopsy, and the results will provide information on whether the mass is a non-cancerous fibroid or something different.
2. You may hear them called different things.
In the medical world, fibroid tumors are also called:
• Uterine myomas
All four of these terms refer to the same thing: a non-cancerous uterine tumor. So don’t be alarmed if you hear your doctor or nurse use one of these technical terms or if you notice that term in your medical records.
3. Your race affects your risk.
Physicians aren’t sure why, but race affects your risk of developing fibroid tumors. For example, black women are three times more likely to develop fibroid tumors than white or Asian women.
Women with African ancestors are also more likely to:
• Have fibroids earlier and later in life
• Require hospitalization due to fibroids
• Experience delayed diagnosis and treatment
• Have fibroids that grow faster and larger than normal
• Require surgical treatment
• Suffer from surgical complications related to fibroid tumors
If you are black or know you have African ancestors, be extra vigilant about knowing – and reporting – any symptoms of fibroid tumors to your OB/GYN.
4. Problematic tumors typically cause symptoms.
Larger tumors, or tumors that grow large enough to impact other pelvic organs, typically cause symptoms.
The most common symptoms associated with fibroids are:
• Pain or tenderness in the pelvic region unrelated to PMS
• Discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse or penetration
• Irregular bleeding or spotting
• Heavy bleeding, prolonged bleeding, and clotting (more than average) during your period
• A constant feeling of fullness or bloating
• Pressure on the bowels that leads to unusual constipation
• Pressure on the bladder can cause the frequent urge to urinate or that contribute to incontinence
Never ignore these symptoms. Contact your OB/GYN and let them know what you’re experiencing. The sooner we diagnose you, the better we’ll know how to support you now and in the future.
5. They can cause infertility.
Fibroids can also make it harder for you to conceive or to carry a baby full-term. Depending on where the fibroid tumor is located, it can affect:
• A fertilized egg’s ability to implant in the uterine lining
• The shape or size of the uterus, which can cause miscarriages
This is one of the reasons we recommend scheduling a preconception appointment with us when you’re ready to get pregnant.
We’ll provide routine screening that might catch fibroids before they cause problems. We’ll also monitor and track your fertility path along the way, letting you know when it’s time to speak with infertility specialists.
6. Fibroids could be a cause of repeat miscarriages.
Most of the time, repeat miscarriages are a sign that there is some incompatibility at work. For some, it’s poor-quality sperm or eggs. It most often indicates a chromosomal or genetic abnormality.
However, repeat miscarriages may also be a sign of uterine abnormalities – including fibroids that compromise implantation, fetal nourishment, or fetal development. Fibroid-related miscarriages typically happen during the first trimester. However, fibroids can also increase a woman’s risk of premature labor.
7. They can negatively impact every stage of pregnancy.
Miscarriage and premature labor are two fibroid risks. However, during the second and third trimesters, fibroids can contribute to:
• More extreme pregnancy pain/discomfort
• Placenta abruptia
• Breech presentation
8. Hormones affect fibroid growth.
While we aren’t 100% sure why certain women develop fibroids, and others don’t – or why some women grow larger or more complicated fibroids- we have identified a relationship between fibroid development and reproductive hormone fluctuation.
Women are most likely to develop fibroids during their childbearing years – and between the ages of 30 and 50. This is because they tend to grow and shrink proportionally with estrogen and progesterone levels. For this reason, women who get pregnant while they have fibroids may experience fibroid growth along with escalating pregnancy hormones.
9. Lifestyle choices minimize fibroid risk.
There is a link between race and fibroids, and genetics also play a role. However, most studies conclude that women are more likely to develop fibroids when they:
• Are overweight or obese
• Drink more than one alcoholic beverage per day
• Eat diets that are higher in red meats and less focused on vegetables and fruits
If your race, genetic history, or personal history with fibroids makes you prone to them, weight management, healthy lifestyle choices, and focusing on a plant-based diet may help.
10. Fibroids are treatable in most cases (when necessary)
If fibroids don’t cause any problems or compromise the internal uterine landscape, you don’t need treatment. We can discuss treatment options if they cause symptoms, pain, or compromise fertility or a healthy pregnancy.
Currently, embolization is the safest and lowest-risk option to treat fibroids. This cuts off their blood supply, so they shrink and are absorbed by the body. However, if a tumor is too large or causes problems beyond the norm, we may recommend surgery. This may include the removal of the tumor (myomectomy – which leaves the uterus intact) or a hysterectomy (where we remove the uterus altogether).
Talk to Women’s Health Associates About Your Fibroids
Do you suspect you have fibroid tumors? Or do you have a history of fibroids and want to discuss your treatment options? Schedule an appointment with Women’s Health Associates to discuss important facts about fibroids and the safest, least invasive ways to treat them.