What Causes Fibroids?

Anywhere from 20-40% of women over the age of 35 may be affected by uterine fibroids—noncancerous tumors that grow on or in the muscle wall of the uterus. With so many women affected, you may wonder if you’re one of them.

Although there is no definite cause for uterine fibroids, there are some factors that may increase the risk.

Hormones

Fibroid growth is largely attributed to the levels of estrogen and progesterone being produced in the body. Estrogen makes the tumors grow and the fibroids themselves contain more hormone receptors than normal uterine muscle.

For this reason, fibroids usually stop growing and shrink once the body reaches menopause and stops producing as much estrogen. In the same way, fibroids often grow faster during the first trimester of pregnancy and then shrink after the birth.

Genetics

If fibroids run in your family, evidence has shown that you may be more likely to get them yourself. Fibroids have changes in their genetic makeup that are not found in the other muscle in the lining of the uterus, and these changes may be passed down through family members.

If your mother has had fibroids, you are about three times more likely to be affected by them than someone without the genetic ties. In addition, it is more likely for identical twins to both have fibroids than non-identical twins.

Hair relaxers

Women who use hair relaxers may also be more likely to get fibroids. A study done on 23,000 African American women showed that using hair relaxers may be linked to uterine fibroids. More specifically, the scalp burns caused by the relaxers may increase the risk.

The use of hair relaxers has not been proven to cause fibroids. However, the study does show that women who use them have a higher incidence of uterine fibroids. They may also be linked to earlier puberty. Women who get their periods earlier in life may be more prone to fibroids as well.

Other factors

There are a few minor factors that may influence the prevalence and growth of fibroids. Other substances in the body could affect fibroid growth, such as those that help maintain tissues.

Diet and obesity may also be linked to fibroid growth. Very heavy women can be two or three times more likely to be affected by fibroids, and a poor diet can be detrimental as well. Eating dark, leafy greens can help lower the risk.

More information

If you think you may be at risk or affected by fibroids, you can learn more by reading our post How to Know If You Have Uterine Fibroids.

If you do have uterine fibroids and are looking for a solution, explore treatment options here.

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.

 

What Are Possible Side Effects of Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a proven fibroid treatment alternative to having a hysterectomy. It isn’t drastic surgery but a less invasive treatment that can preserve your uterus and decrease painful fibroid-related symptoms.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recognizes UFE as a viable fibroid treatment option. However, as with any medical procedure, UFE does have potential side effects, and it’s important for women to be completely informed to make the best decision for their care.

 

What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that are found in the muscle tissue of the uterus. Women with fibroids may show varied symptoms. These can include a heavy menstrual cycle, pelvic pain and/or pressure, and frequent urination.

Fibroids can range from the size of a walnut to as large as a cantaloupe (or larger). Women may have multiple fibroid tumors, making it difficult to determine which fibroid is causing symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms, your doctor will follow up with you regularly and monitor any changes.

 

How do I know if I have uterine fibroids?

Women with fibroids often have difficulty keeping up with daily activities because of menstrual discomfort. Some are unable to maintain their way of life. While not all women have painful symptoms caused by fibroids, these tumors can cause pain that can affect you in many ways.

Determine if you are at risk for uterine fibroids.

 

How does the UFE procedure work? 

UFE is performed by a doctor called an interventional radiologist (IR). It begins with a small incision in the groin area or the wrist which will enable the IR to access your arteries.

After this tiny cut is made, the IR will insert a small tube called a catheter into the artery and guide it through the blood vessels that lead to your fibroids.

Once the catheter reaches the fibroids, the IR will inject very small particles, called embolic agents, through the catheter. This will block off the blood flow that leads directly to the fibroids. After the fibroids are deprived of blood and oxygen, they begin to shrink and symptoms will subside. The small particles will stay there permanently.

After the IR has completed this process on both sides of your uterus, the catheter is gently removed. The interventional radiologist will place pressure on the small incision until bleeding has stopped. After holding the puncture site for a few minutes to help stop any bleeding, the IR may close the incision using a vascular closure device.

The procedure usually takes around 1 hour. After the procedure is finished, a team of nurses will help you with anything you need to feel comfortable. UFE is typically performed as an outpatient procedure.

 

Possible Side Effects of UFE

Around 90% of all women are satisfied with UFE. However, there are potential risks and complications to consider:

-Not having a period for six months or more

-Common, but short-term, allergic reactions, such as rashes

-Increased vaginal discharge or vaginal infection

-Possibly passing a fibroid tumor during your period

-Early menopause

-The effects of UFE on the ability to become pregnant and carry a fetus to term and on the development of the fetus have not been determined

Read more about the risks associated with UFE.

 

Final thoughts

UFE is a minimally-invasive fibroid treatment option and is covered by most insurance companies. Explore the Ask4UFE site for more information and talk with your doctor to see if it’s the right treatment for you.

 

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.

Why Would Someone Need a Second UFE?

Uterine fibroids affect anywhere from 20-40% of women older than 35 years of age, and many of them are choosing to have uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) as treatment.

However, in rare cases, some women are finding it necessary to have more than one UFE procedure.

What is UFE?

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow on or in the muscle wall of the uterus. Though they do affect a large percentage of women, some do not show any symptoms. Those that do experience symptoms often suffer from excessive menstrual bleeding and severe pelvic pain or pressure.

UFE is a procedure to treat fibroids. During UFE, which is performed by a doctor called an interventional radiologist, a small incision is made in the radial (wrist) or femoral artery (groin).

The doctor then guides a slim tube called a catheter through vessels to the uterine artery, where tiny particles called embolic material are injected and block the blood supply to the fibroid. Once the fibroid is no longer receiving blood, it will begin to die and shrink, reducing the painful and frustrating symptoms.

UFE is an outpatient procedure and recovery time is usually 7-10 days, after which you should be able to resume normal activities.

Are there any complications?

There are several risks and complications associated with UFE, although overall it is a safe procedure with minimal risk. Some of the potential complications include:

  • -Non-target embolization
  • -Transient amenorrhea, or absence of a menstrual period
  • -Vaginal discharge or infection
  • -Short-term allergic reaction or rash
  • -Premature menopause
  • -Post-embolization syndrome, which is typically a fever, some pain, and fatigue following the procedure
  • -Possible fibroid passage
  • -The effects on fertility and a woman’s ability to carry a child to term have not been determined

It is also possible that the first UFE treatment may not work to its full potential, and a second UFE would be required.

Why would I need a second UFE?

In general, approximately 90% of women who undergo UFE are satisfied with their treatment at follow-up. However, about 10-15% of women still experience symptoms and require other treatment. These additional procedures may be due to the failure of the first UFE to ease symptoms.

Learn more

If you’re interested in learning more about UFE and finding a doctor in your area who can perform the procedure, you can use the Find a UFE Specialist tool to help.

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.

How Do Fibroids Affect Sexual Intercourse?

Aside from the pain, heavy bleeding, and bloating that women with uterine fibroids often experience, another common worry surfaces—how it will affect sexual intercourse. Unfortunately, fibroids can present obstacles in the bedroom, but through treatment, a happy and fulfilling sex life is possible.

What Are Uterine Fibroids?

Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow on or inside the walls of the uterus. The symptoms themselves that accompany fibroids may get in the way of sexual intercourse or make it unpleasant:

Heavy bleeding: Menstruating for longer than a week and bleeding between periods can make it difficult and even impossible to have sexual intercourse.

Pelvic pain: Pain in the pelvis and lower abdomen can make intercourse uncomfortable. Large tumors can put pressure on the walls of the uterus, causing pain. If a fibroid grows near the cervix at the end of the vaginal tract, intercourse can be very distressing.

Abdominal bloating: Depending on the size of the fibroids, the abdomen can become noticeably enlarged, even resembling pregnancy, which can interfere with sex.

Urinary incontinence and frequency: Feeling the need to urinate often can get in the way and make sex unappealing.

Because of these symptoms, another effect that fibroids may have is the loss of libido. Not surprisingly, the desire to have intercourse can be diminished when it becomes painful, with many women feeling it may not be worth the struggle.

Find more answers to your questions about fibroids and sex in this helpful FAQs page.

Learn More About Your Solutions

From minimally invasive to surgical, there are several fibroid treatment options that can improve and even eliminate the symptoms listed above. If you think you may have fibroids and your sex life is suffering, the best thing to do is talk to your gynecologist to help you decide which treatment option is best for you.

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.

What to Watch for the Week after Your UFE Procedure

It’s scary enough to learn you have tumors in the muscular lining of your uterus, also known as uterine fibroids. But taking the step to undergo a procedure to treat them can be even scarier.

The good news is that uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is available, and a large majority of women have been satisfied with the treatment. However, it’s still important to know what to expect going in and how long it might take to recover.

What Is UFE?

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow in or on the muscle tissue of the uterus. They can cause many problems, including heavy menstrual bleeding, extreme pelvic pain, and loss of bladder control. In the past, these tumors could only be removed through major surgeries.

However, there’s now a treatment called UFE. This is a minimally invasive procedure that involves blocking the blood supply to the tumors. It’s performed by a doctor called an interventional radiologist (IR). During UFE, the IR inserts a thin tube into the uterine artery through a small incision near the groin or in the wrist. Particles are then injected into the artery to block the blood supply, causing the tumor to shrink and die.

What Can I Expect after My Treatment?

UFE is an outpatient procedure, so many women will be able to go home that day and won’t have to spend the night. However, depending on how you feel and when your IR says you can go home, you could stay in patient recovery for up to 24 hours. Your doctor will prescribe some medications for the pain resulting from the surgery.

Together, your IR and gynecologist will give you a set of discharge instructions that will tell you everything you need to know after your procedure. These instructions will include which medications you can take based on how you’re feeling. They’ll also have a list of numbers you can call if you have questions, and information on when you can return to normal activity. Typically, recovery time is around 1-2 weeks.

What Should I Look Out for the Week After the Procedure?

There are a few symptoms that may affect you the week after UFE:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping: For a few days following the procedure, you may feel cramps similar to what you feel while on your period. Your doctor may prescribe you medication to help with this.
  • Fever: Some patients experience a fever after UFE, and it’s usually treated with medication.
  • Nausea: If you experience any nausea, let your doctor know, so your medications can be adjusted.
  • Post Embolization Syndrome: You may experience flu-like symptoms, a feeling of discomfort, and mild nausea. It can happen anywhere from a few hours to a few days after your procedure.

If you experience any symptoms that seem unmanageable or irregular, let your IR know.

Your doctor will schedule post-procedure appointments to check on your recovery and address any concerns you may have. Normally, you’ll have an appointment 1 week after your treatment and another 3 months later.

Learn More

Still have questions about fibroids and UFE? Browse the Ask4UFE site for more helpful information. To find an IR in your area that can perform the UFE procedure, use our Find a UFE Specialist tool.

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.

How Common Are Fibroids?

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
  • Obesity
  • 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?

To learn more about uterine fibroids and treatment options, download our free ebook or browse our many resources. We also offer tools to help you find a fibroid specialist.

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.

How to Set Goals You Won’t Break

It’s never a bad time to set new goals. Whether it’s the beginning of a new year, you’re starting a new job, or just a Tuesday, it’s always good to better yourself.

But how many of those goals do you follow through on? Maybe you go to the gym every day for the first two weeks, but then you have a hair appointment, so you don’t go a day—and your habit is ruined. Or maybe you do well on saving money for a few months, but then you decide to splurge on a new pair of shoes.

It may not seem like it, but the problem might be in how you’re setting your goals. Follow the steps outlined in this post, and you’ll be on your way to accomplishing the things you’ve been dreaming of.

Step One: Set your long-term goals.

If you’re not sure where to start, try setting goals in each area of your life: career, financial, physical, spiritual, relationships, and personal. Think about your end goal first. Do you want to be a certain weight? Do you want to save some sum of money? Maybe climb a mountain? Decide what you want, and write that down.

Step Two: Break it down into smaller increments.

Take your long-term goal and create smaller, short-term goals that will help you reach it. For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds by the end of the year, you might set smaller goals to lose 5 pounds every three months.

Step Three: Make your goals SMART.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound. Look at each of your goals and make adjustments to fit these criteria. For example, for your weight-loss goal, you already have the time-bound, measurable, and results-focused parts met: lose 5 pounds in 3 months. If you were to make it more specific, you could include your goal weight. Only you know if your goal is measurable or not.

Step Four: Assess your obstacles.

Spend some time going through each of your goals and writing down any obstacles you might encounter, any resources you need, and what success looks like. In the weight-loss example, obstacles might include unhealthy temptations, lack of time, or scarcity of support. You might need resources like a gym or healthy snacks. Success could look like a more active you.

Step Five: Take action.

Now that you have your goal and a realistic plan on how to get there, it’s time to get to work!

What are your goals? Leave a comment and let us know, and if you need some inspiration, check out this list of 50 small ways to get more out of life.

 

Are Fibroids Still a Problem After Menopause?

Some women who suffer from uterine fibroids—noncancerous tumors that grow in or on the muscle walls of the uterus—put off treatment because they’re approaching menopause. In many instances, fibroids have shrunk after menopause and symptoms have disappeared, but this may not always be the case.

Effects of menopause on fibroids

Because fibroids grow in part due to the amount of estrogen in a woman’s body, the changes in hormones that come with menopause can cause them to stop growing and even shrink—but it may not be enough to make them go away altogether.

Another thing to remember is that if a woman is taking hormone replacement therapy to help live with menopause, she’ll likely continue to experience fibroid-related symptoms.

Every woman’s body is different. Menopause may not cause fibroids to shrink at all, and they may even continue growing and cause bothersome symptoms.

Symptoms of fibroids following menopause

Some fibroid-related symptoms that may persist after menopause include:

  • Pelvic pressure: You may continue to experience pain similar to cramps before a period. This pain can be severe and can be a result of fibroids pressing on the walls of the uterus and surrounding organs.
  • Urinary urgency: If fibroids are pushing on the bladder, it can cause you to urinate frequently.
  • Abdominal bloating: Depending on the size of fibroids, they may cause your abdomen to become enlarged, resembling a pregnancy.

Treatment options

Many of the same treatments available before menopause remain options.

One treatment is uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive procedure performed by a doctor called an interventional radiologist. Taking less than one hour, UFE involves a small incision to the radial artery in the wrist or the femoral artery in the groin area. The doctor then inserts a small tube into the incision and guides it through the artery to the fibroids.

Tiny spheres called embolic material are injected into the vessel that’s supplying blood to the fibroids. The goal is to block the blood supply to the fibroids, so they’ll stop growing and begin to shrink.

UFE is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning you’d be able to go home the same day you have treatment. Recovery time differs for every woman, but it commonly takes one week to 10 days, enabling you to then return to a lifestyle you enjoy—without the pain of uterine fibroids.

Learn more

If you’re suffering from fibroids, the best thing is not to wait to have treatment. While menopause does improve symptoms and conditions for some women, it’s impossible to know whether it’ll work for you. Talk to your doctor today to develop a care plan that’s right for you.

To find a doctor in your area who can perform the UFE procedure, use our Find a UFE Specialist tool.

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.

When Your Period Signals a Problem

For most women, getting cramps around “that time of the month” is a normal part of life, although it can be annoying. For some women though, the pain and heavy bleeding signify a problem that needs to be addressed.

So how do you know if your period is normal? Or if you should be concerned about what’s going on with your body?

 

Normal periods

There’s a broad range of what’s considered a “normal” menstrual cycle, and generally, it’s what’s right for you. The cycle begins at the first day of your period and lasts until the first day of the next one, and this can be anywhere from 21 to 35 days. Your period itself can last 2 to 7 days depending on your body.

It’s different for every woman whether your period is heavy, light, painful, or pain-free. Your symptoms and the length of your period could even change from month to month and still be deemed normal. As you age, your period normally shortens and becomes more regular.

To determine if your period is normal, it’s a good idea to track it and keep an eye out for patterns.

 

Tracking your cycle

Some important things to track include:

Start and end date: This will help you monitor how long your cycle is, whether it varies month to month, and when you can expect your next period to begin.

Flow heaviness: Are you bleeding heavily or is your flow light? Does it seem different than normal?

Pain: If you have cramps, keep track of when they start and how long they last. If they become worse, make a note of that.

Abnormal bleeding: This includes bleeding in between periods or other irregularities.

Any other changes: Mood changes or anything else that seems odd or unexpected should be written down.

 

Problem periods

It’s normal for your menstrual cycle to have some irregularities, but there are some symptoms that may indicate an underlying problem. You should see a doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms:

  1. Your periods stop for more than 3 months, and you are not pregnant.
  2. Your period lasts longer than seven days.
  3. You bleed between periods.
  4. Your periods are less than 21 or more than 35 days apart.
  5. You’re experiencing severe pain that causes you to miss work, school, or other activities.
  6. You’re bleeding much more heavily than normal.
  7. Your periods were regular but suddenly become irregular.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, or have other questions about your menstrual cycle, it’s wise to talk to your physician. They could be evidence of a range of issues.

 

Possible causes

Pregnancy: A missed period could be a sign of pregnancy. Alternatively, if you have just given birth and are breastfeeding, your period might be slow to return to normal.

 

Eating disorder: If you are not providing your body with the proper nutrients or have been exercising excessively, you may miss a period or cause it to stop altogether. Rapidly losing a lot of weight can have the same effect.

 

Premature ovarian failure: Some women lose normal function of the ovaries before age 40, and their ovaries stop producing normal amounts of estrogen or releasing eggs routinely. This can cause irregular or infrequent periods for months or even years. The condition is also known as primary ovarian insufficiency and is often treated through estrogen supplements.

 

Pelvic inflammatory disease: This is an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs. It’s evidenced by irregular bleeding or bleeding between periods. This condition can cause complications with fertility and other damage to the reproductive system if not diagnosed early, but it can be treated with antibiotics.

 

Uterine fibroids: These are noncancerous tumors that grow on or in the muscle walls of the uterus. Symptoms include heavy bleeding and severe pelvic pain. A wide range of treatment options exist, including a minimally invasive procedure called uterine fibroid embolization.

 

More information

To learn more about what could be causing severe pain or other problems with your menstrual cycle, check out this page on period cramps and other menstrual conditions.

Even if you’re not sure an irregularity with your period is normal or not, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have questions.

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.

Uterine Fibroids Linked to Higher Risk of Breast Cancer but Lower Risk of Death, Study Says
Alicia Armeli

Breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide. In 2021, an estimated  281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 49,290 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the US alone. A study published in Oncotarget found that although the risk of breast cancer was higher among women with fibroids, these women were less likely to die from the disease.

Researchers in Taiwan used the National Health Insurance Research Database of Taiwan to examine how frequent breast cancer occurred among Asian patients and how often they died from the disease. The study compared 22,001 women with newly diagnosed fibroids to 85,356 women without fibroids.

In comparison to women without fibroids, data showed the incidence of breast cancer was 35% higher among women with fibroids. By the end of the study, researchers observed that women with fibroids, although at a higher risk of breast cancer, were significantly less likely to die from the disease versus women who were fibroid-free.

One possible explanation is that the complicated balance of sexual hormone and hormone receptor status plays a critical role in the development of both breast cancer and uterine fibroids. Another possible explanation, the researchers write, is that the stage of breast cancer at diagnosis was earlier in patients with uterine fibroids than those fibroid-free.

Looking at both groups, researchers also examined risk factors for breast cancer. For example, women with fibroids who were 45 years of age and older and those who didn’t use estrogen and progesterone medications were at an increased risk of breast cancer when compared to women without fibroids. Furthermore, researchers found that having other conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, noncancerous breast tumors, menopausal and postmenopausal disorders, and infertility put women with fibroids at a higher breast cancer risk.

As the research for fibroids and breast cancer continues, this study furthers our understanding of how these diseases may be connected.

 

Article Referenced

Shen T et al. 2017. “Patients with Uterine Leiomyoma Exhibit a High Incidence but Low Mortality Rate for Breast Cancer.” Oncotarget 8, no. 20 (May 16): 33014–33023. PMID: 28380432.