Although the term “uterine fibroids” isn’t heard much in day-to-day conversation, these noncancerous tumors are more prevalent than you’d expect. The fact is many women are living with uterine fibroids, and some may not even know it.
What Are fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that grow on or in the lining of the uterus. They can be as small as a walnut or as large as a cantaloupe. Often, a woman may have several fibroid tumors.
Many times, fibroids don’t cause any symptoms. When they do, possible symptoms can include excessive menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and urinary incontinence and frequency. These symptoms can even lead to anemia from loss of blood or an enlarged abdomen from the size of the tumor.
What Are the Risk Factors?
The cause for developing uterine fibroids is unknown. However, after fibroids begin to develop, the hormones estrogen and progesterone seem to influence the growth. When a woman’s body is producing more of these hormones, the fibroids grow faster.
Several factors may affect a woman’s risk for having fibroids, including the following:
- Age (older women are at higher risk than younger women)
- African American race
- Family history of uterine fibroids
- High blood pressure
- No history of pregnancy
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Food additive consumption
- Use of soybean milk
Factors that may lower the risk of fibroids include:
- Pregnancy (the risk decreases with an increasing number of pregnancies)
- Long-term use of oral or injectable contraceptives
How Common Are Uterine Fibroids?
By age 50, nearly two-thirds of women experience uterine fibroids, and Black women are diagnosed with fibroids roughly three times as often as White women, develop them earlier in life and tend to experience larger fibroids, numerous fibroids, and more severe symptoms.
In general, all women of childbearing age are potentially at risk. Because estrogen plays a large role in the growth of fibroids, fibroids usually begin to shrink by themselves after menopause because of the drop in estrogen.
Because many women with uterine fibroids don’t show symptoms, some don’t know they’re affected. During your annual gynecological visit, your doctor will check your uterus to see if it’s enlarged. If it’s enlarged, your doctor will schedule an ultrasound to confirm the presence of fibroids.
If you’re diagnosed with fibroids but do not have symptoms, your doctor may recommend “watchful waiting.” During this time, your doctor will schedule regular checkups to keep an eye on the tumor growth and any symptoms that may appear. If you need treatment, many options are available.
Where Can I Find More Information?
PLEASE NOTE: The above information should not be construed as providing specific medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician.