Uterine fibroids, the most common benign (noncancerous) growth in the pelvic area, don’t typically cause serious health concerns — yet they often bring a good deal of frustration. Many women with fibroids experience bothersome, and even debilitating, symptoms. With the support of a knowledgeable provider and individualized treatment, relief is possible.
A Common and Treatable Condition
While a fibroid diagnosis can stir up feelings of fear or concern, it’s crucial to remember they aren’t cancerous or associated with an increased risk of developing cancer in the future.
Most women will develop fibroids in her lifetime; there are more than three million cases per year in the U.S. alone. If they don’t cause pain or symptoms, you may not have been unaware of their presence and won’t necessarily need treatment.
What are fibroids?
Made of muscle and fibrous connective tissue, fibroids are benign tumors that develop on the inside, outside, or the wall of the uterus. They may be as small as a pea or as large as a melon, and it’s possible to have one or multiple growths.
Fibroids are often found between the ages of 30 and 40 or during the first trimester of pregnancy. In some cases, they can affect pregnancy or fertility, so it’s crucial to partner with your provider to find the most appropriate care.
Who’s at risk?
All women of reproductive age can develop fibroids, but there’s evidence showing a variety of factors may affect risk levels:
- Fibroids tend to run in families; if your mother or sister has/had them, you may be at a higher risk.
- African American women are more likely to have larger, symptomatic fibroids and to develop them at a younger age.
- Obesity; a vitamin D deficiency; a diet high in red meat and low in green vegetables; and alcohol consumption may increase your chances of developing fibroids.
Not all women experience the same symptoms; discuss any and all troublesome symptoms with your provider.
- Overly heavy, prolonged, or painful periods
- Heaviness or pain in the pelvic area
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty emptying bladder
- Pain during sex
- Leg or back pain
- Low red blood cell count (anemia)
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- A physical exam of your pelvis allows your provider to feel for any abnormalities in or around your uterus. In fact, fibroids are often found incidentally during a routine pelvic exam or during pregnancy.
- An ultrasound will help your provider confirm a diagnosis and map/measure the fibroids.
- Additional imaging is sometimes necessary to view the size and location of fibroids, identify different types of tumors, and help determine the most beneficial course of treatment.
Your provider’s recommendations — including whether you’ll need treatment at all — will depend on the severity of your symptoms, the location and size of the tumors, your age, as well as your plans to have children.
- Watchful waiting is recommended for women who don’t show any symptoms or have mild symptoms that aren’t interfering with daily life.
- Medications target the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle, helping to treat symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pressure. They won’t eliminate your fibroids, but they may shrink them.
- Surgery options have expanded dramatically with advances in technology, allowing for minimally invasive procedures whenever possible. All Seven Hill’s physicians are expertly-trained and experienced surgeons.
- Lifestyle changes may help reduce symptoms. Your provider can support you to find the exercise, diet, and supplements that are right for you.
We believe each woman is unique — and her care should be too. When you connect with a Seven Hills provider, you’ll gain a partner to help you explore your symptoms and access the specialized and compassionate care you deserve.