Uterine fibroids are growths in the muscle tissue of your uterus. Fibroids are frequently diagnosed incidentally — Dr. Pourzand may notice that you have them during a routine pelvic exam, for instance.
It can be scary to hear that you have growths of any kind, on any part of your body. Here are three facts you should know about uterine fibroids.
1. They are more common than you realize
Experts estimate that somewhere between 20-80% of women have uterine fibroids by the time they are 50 years old. It’s a bit difficult to estimate, because some women have no symptoms at all when they have fibroids, and so are never aware of them.
You may have a single, small fibroid, or many. The size, shape, and location of fibroids varies extensively from person to person. They may be so large they distort the shape of your abdomen, or extremely small.
There are a few things that seem to be associated with a higher likelihood of developing fibroids. Risk factors include:
- Age - women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are more likely to develop fibroids
- Family history - if your mother has fibroids, you’re three times more likely to develop them than average
- Ethnicity - African American women are more likely to develop uterine fibroids than white women
- Diet - if you eat red meat and ham, you’re more likely to develop fibroids than someone who doesn’t
2. They can be problematic
Although it’s entirely possible to have uterine fibroids and never know it, they can cause problems. For example, fibroids can cause you to have heavy, painful periods or pain during sex.
If you have large fibroids, they can cause significant discomfort. You may feel pelvic pressure all the time, or have pain in your back. Sometimes fibroids can make it difficult for you to empty your bladder or cause constipation.
Additionally, if you become pregnant, uterine fibroids can cause complications. If you have fibroids, you’re six times more likely to need a Cesarean section than someone who doesn’t have fibroids.
Other complications that have been associated with uterine fibroids include:
- Breech positioning
- Failure to progress in labor
- Placental abruption
- Early delivery
The good news is that fibroids are not associated with a higher risk of uterine cancer, nor does having uterine fibroids increase the chance you’ll develop another form of cancer. Cancerous fibroids can occur, but they are very rare, and happen in fewer than one in 1,000 cases.
3. There are many different treatment options
Since there’s so much variation in how fibroids develop, where they’re located, their size, and their shape, there’s no single best treatment. Instead, Dr. Pourzand evaluates your specific situation and takes into consideration factors that are unique to you.
Some potential treatment options include watchful waiting, which is often best when you have fibroids but no symptoms. Fibroids tend to shrink after menopause, so if you’re nearing that stage it makes sense to wait and see what happens. Also, since fibroids aren’t cancerous, if they aren’t causing you discomfort, watchful waiting may be appropriate.
There are several medications that can be used to shrink fibroids. They target the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle. Dr. Pourzand may also recommend you use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief.
Depending on your situation, a noninvasive or minimally invasive procedure may be helpful. In rarer cases, a surgical procedure may be the best option.
If you’d like to learn more about uterine fibroids and discuss your particular situation, book an appointment with Dr. Pourzand today. Our online scheduling tool is easy to use and available 24/7, or you’re welcome to give us a call to set up your appointment.