What You Need to Know About Uterine Fibroid Tumors

Fibroids are Common and Frequently Asymptomatic

Woman suffering from abdominal pain.
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Uterine fibroid tumors grow on your uterine wall and are the most common solid pelvic tumors in found in women. Treatment is typically unnecessary because you usually don't experience any symptoms.​

This condition is quite common during your child-bearing years and 20 to 50 percent of women have clinically apparent uterine fibroid tumors, also known as leiomyomas or simply as fibroids. In fact, pathological examinations of removed uteri show that the prevalence of fibroids may be as high as 80 percent, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The two most common symptoms of fibroids that cause women to seek the advice of their healthcare providers are

  1. excessive uterine bleeding, called or menorrhagia, that lasts longer than seven days
  2. a feeling of pelvic pressure – somewhat like the pressure experienced during pregnancy when the uterus grows larger

Fibroid Tumors and Estrogen

Fibroid tumors are estrogen dependent and never develop before the onset of menstruation, which is when the female body begins producing estrogen. Women should know:

  • During pregnancy, fibroids often grow extremely fast due the extra estrogen your body produces.
  • Most women diagnosed with fibroids before menopause may discover their uterine fibroid tumors shrink and disappear once estrogen production stops in the body.
  • Women who currently have fibroids and those who've had them in the past need to pay particular attention to the potential side effects of estrogen-containing medications.

    Symptoms and Complications of Fibroid Tumors

    If you experience symptoms from your fibroids, you might notice:

    • painful periods with heavy bleeding
    • an enlarged lower abdomen
    • pain while having sex

    Fibroids can cause complications including

    • reproductive problems, although infertility is rare
    • a significant increase in cesarean section
    • complications during pregnancy, including an association with an increased rate of spontaneous miscarriage, preterm labor and more

    Types of Fibroids

    There are several types of fibroids and it's not uncommon for women to have more than one type of uterine fibroid tumor. These types include:

    • Subserosal or subserous fibroids, which grow on the outer wall of the uterus and usually cause no symptoms unless they grow large enough to interfere with other organs.
    • Submucosal fibroids occur just below the lining of the uterus and can cause menstrual problems as they grow and move around the pelvic area.
    • Intramural uterine fibroid tumors are located within the uterine wall and cause an increase in uterine size as they grow.
    • Pendunculated leiomyomas develop when a subserous fibroid grows a peduncle or stalk that grows larger and may become twisted, causing severe pain.
    • Parasitic uterine fibroids are the rarest type of leiomyomas and develop when a fibroid tumor attaches itself to another organ.

    Should I get a hysterectomy to treat my fibroids?

    While a hysterectomy is currently the only cure for fibroids, this elective surgery is just one treatment option and alternatives are available.

    Despite the promise of potential benefits, removing an organ can have serious consequences and it's highly recommended to get a second opinion before making your final decision.

    If you have symptomatic fibroids, it’s important that you understand all your options before making a decision to have a hysterectomy. You should know that while many women have good outcomes, others don't get the relief they hoped for or have new health issues. Make sure you discuss your options with your partner and more than one healthcare professional. Ask as many questions as you need to understand which treatment option is best for your type or types of fibroid tumors.


    American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 2004 Compendium of Selected Publications

    Lee, et al. Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology: Contemporary Management of Fibroids in Pregnancy (2010).

    WomensHealth.gov: Uterine Fibroids Fact Sheet

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