Frequently Asked Questions about Uterine Fibroids
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
A fibroid is a benign mass of cells that exist within the tissues of the uterus. These lumps are not cancerous, though they can cause significant symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, chronic pain, and more.
Fibroids are an extremely common female condition, and are said to affect up to 80% of all women by age 50, though not every individual will present symptoms of fibroids. Many women that do experience difficulties with fibroids will begin to notice symptoms as their benign tumors gradually grow larger over time. This growth is likely to continue, along with worsening symptoms, if the woman’s fibroids remain untreated.
What Causes Fibroids?
Unfortunately, there is no one particular cause to fibroids. Medical professionals and researchers speculate that the development of uterine fibroids is related to hormonal imbalances as well as the patient’s genetic history, meaning that individuals have little to no control over their risk for encountering this condition.
Who Is at Risk for Getting Fibroids?
In addition to having irregular hormone levels and a family history of fibroids, other factors that can influence a woman’s risk of developing fibroids are:
- Her age: Fibroids are most commonly diagnosed between age 30 and 40.
- Her weight: Obese individuals are more likely to suffer from fibroids. The more weight a woman carries, the greater her risk.
- Her ethnicity: African-American women encounter problems with uterine fibroids more than any other ethnic group.
- Her diet: More recent studies have shown that a high intake of red meat can negatively impact a woman’s likelihood to develop fibroid. In contrast, eating more leafy greens and fruit can have a positive effect on this particular risk factor.
What Are the Symptoms of Fibroids?
As mentioned, fibroids typically cause excessive bleeding along with recurring pelvic pain. This pain is often misdiagnosed by patients as regular cramping during their menstrual cycle, but is most often the result of the positioning or increasing size of their uterine fibroids.
In addition to heavy bleeding and pain, fibroids can also cause:
- Bloating of the lower abdomen
- Frequent and sudden need to urinate
- Pain during intercourse
- Problems with fertility
- Low back pain
- Complications during pregnancy
What Are the Different Types of Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids can appear in various areas of the uterus, leading to different categorization based on the location of the patient’s tissue mass. There are 4 distinct types of fibroids, which include:
- Pedunculated fibroids: A fibroid that develops a supportive stem that forms at the base of the tumor.
- Subserosal fibroids: A type of uterine fibroid that grows along the outside of the uterus.
- Intramural fibroids: The most common kind of uterine fibroid, which appears within the uterine wall itself.
- Submucosal fibroids: Similar to the intramural fibroid type, these fibroids also develop within the uterine wall, though they more specifically exist within the submucosal layer of this muscular tissue.
How Does The University of Kansas Interventional Radiology Diagnose Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are often diagnosed during a woman’s routine gynecological examination, which she should be completing every single year as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Depending upon the particular location of the patient’s fibroid, a doctor may need to conduct an ultrasound or pelvic MRI in order to definitively confirm or deny a case of uterine fibroids.
How Are Fibroids Treated?
There are a variety of treatment methods available for women with uterine fibroids. Individuals who do not experience significant symptoms of fibroids are unlikely to ever require treatment, but those who frequently suffer from pain and discomfort from fibroids should consult with a doctor about their options.