Uterine fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the uterus. It’s a very common condition, and is not usually associated with cancer.
Fibroids may be so small they can’t be seen with the human eye, or as large as a watermelon. Usually, once they have developed, they will continue to grow. After menopause, however, they often shrink. A woman may have more than one fibroid at a time.
Symptoms of uterine fibroids
Some women who have uterine fibroids have no symptoms at all. Those who have symptoms may experience
- abnormal bleeding
- frequent urination
- fertility issues
- complications during pregnancy
Fibroids with no symptoms may be discovered during a regular pelvic exam. An MRI or CT scan can confirm their presence.
If you have fibroids but no symptoms, you may not need treatment. Your gynecologist will check them in your regular appointments to see whether they are growing and if you should be concerned.
Decisions about treatment will depend on your age, whether you plan to become pregnant, the size and location of the fibroids, and various other factors.
Treatment can involve medication or surgery.
Black women are more likely to have fibroids than white women (there is not enough research on Latina, Pacific Islander, and Asian women for comparison). Obese women are also more likely to have fibroids — up to twice as likely. You are also more likely to have fibroids if your mother or sister had them.
Having a baby reduces your risk of fibroids.
The cause of uterine fibroids is not known for certain, but it appears that a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing them. Women who eat more red meat and fewer fruits and vegetables are more likely to have uterine fibroids. Eating lots of green vegetables seems to protect women from developing fibroids.
Processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine may make fibroids worse.
Regular exercise also seems to reduce the chances of developing fibroids, though there is no evidence that exercise helps to treat fibroids that have already developed.
If you have questions about fibroids, ask your gynecologist.