What is a uterine fibroid?
A uterine fibroid is a tumor in a woman's uterus (womb). The uterus is the organ where babies grow before they are born. Fibroids aren't cancer, but they can be painful and cause bleeding and other symptoms.
Fibroids need treatment only if they are causing symptoms—most fibroids don’t need treatment
Up to 7 in 10 White women and 8 in 10 Black women have one or more fibroids by age 45
Fibroids may be tiny or as big as a basketball
Doctors check for fibroids with a physical exam and ultrasound Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a safe imaging test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body. Ultrasonography doesn't use radiation (x-rays). Ultrasonography is also called... read more (a test using sound waves to create a moving picture of the inside of your body)
Fibroids are more common in women who are overweight
You may need surgery to get rid of symptoms like pain or to make childbirth possible
What causes uterine fibroids?
Doctors don’t know what causes fibroids.
High levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone make fibroids grow. Fibroids tend to get bigger when these hormone levels rise during pregnancy. They tend to shrink when these hormone levels go down during menopause Menopause Menopause is when women stop having periods (stop menstruating) and can no longer get pregnant. Menopause usually happens after age 40. In the United States, the average age for menopause is... read more .
What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?
Many fibroids don’t cause any symptoms. Your symptoms may depend on:
The number of fibroids you have
Where they are in your uterus
The size (bigger fibroids are more likely to cause symptoms)
Symptoms of fibroids can include:
Heavier bleeding during your period or a longer period (abnormal vaginal bleeding Vaginal Bleeding Vaginal bleeding is when you pass blood from your vagina (birth canal). Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Vaginal bleeding is normal during your monthly period. Your period usually starts every... read more )
Anemia Overview of Anemia Anemia is not having enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all of your other organs. Hemoglobin is the substance inside your red blood cells that... read more (a low number of red blood cells) from heavy period bleeding
Pain, pressure, or a feeling of heaviness in your lower belly area
A constant or sudden need to urinate (pee)
Constipation (difficulty passing poop)
Swollen belly area
Fibroids can also cause problems with pregnancy such as:
Problems getting pregnant
Miscarriage Miscarriage Miscarriage is when your pregnancy ends before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Bleeding and cramping are common signs of miscarriage If you... read more (when your pregnancy ends before 20 weeks, before your baby can survive outside your body)
Going into labor too early
Unusual position of baby in your uterus
Fibroids can grow so big they can’t get enough blood. This makes them shrink and causes you pain.
How can doctors tell if I have uterine fibroids?
Doctors will do a pelvic exam and may suggest other tests. During a pelvic exam, your doctor presses on your belly to feel the size and shape of your uterus and ovaries. They also use tools to look inside your vagina and cervix (lower part of your uterus) to check for any problems.
To know for sure if you have fibroids, doctors may do other tests including:
Ultrasound Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a safe imaging test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body. Ultrasonography doesn't use radiation (x-rays). Ultrasonography is also called... read more using a wand placed inside your vagina (transvaginal ultrasound)
Ultrasound done after a doctor injects a fluid into your uterus to see the inside
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more —an imaging test that uses a strong magnetic field to create a detailed picture of the inside of your body
Biopsy of the lining of your uterus
In a biopsy, the doctor removes a small amount of tissue from the lining of your uterus. The tissue is examined under a microscope to be sure you don't have a more serious problem, like uterine cancer.
How do doctors treat uterine fibroids?
You won’t need treatment unless your symptoms bother you or are preventing you from getting pregnant. If your fibroids get large or start causing severe symptoms, treatment can include:
Medicines to shrink the fibroids and lessen bleeding
Sometimes, surgery to remove your fibroids or your uterus
Sometimes, procedures to destroy your fibroids and ease your symptoms
Procedures that can destroy fibroids include freezing them or using heat. Ultrasound or MRI may be used during the procedure to help your doctor see the fibroids.