Q: What are fibroids?
A: They are benign (not cancerous) growths in the uterus that develop from the muscle tissue of the uterus. They also are called leiomyomas or myomas. A woman may have only one fibroid or many of varying sizes. Whether fibroids will occur singly or in groups is hard to predict. They may remain very small for a long time, suddenly grow rapidly, or grow slowly over a number of years.
Q: Are there risk factors for fibroids?
A: Fibroids are most common in women aged 30-40 years, but they can occur at any age. Fibroids occur more often in African American women than in white women. They also seem to occur at a younger age and grow more quickly in African American women. Overweight and obese women are at higher risk for fibroids. Pregnancy appears to lower the risk for developing fibroids.
Q: What symptoms can fibroids cause?
A: Often they are asymptomatic and found at the time of a routine exam. Fibroids may cause changes in menstruation, particularly longer, more frequent, or heavy menstrual periods. They can also increase menstrual pain and cramps. Less often, they can result in vaginal bleeding at times other than menstruation. Other symptoms include pelvic pain, pelvic pressure, urinary frequency and change in bowel habits. Fibroids may also increase the chances of infertility and miscarriage.
Q: How are fibroids diagnosed?
A: A pelvic exam by your physician is usually the first step towards diagnosing fibroids. Once your uterus has been identified as being enlarged or irregularly shaped, the presence of fibroids can be seen by ultrasound. Less often, CT scans or MRI's are used to confirm the diagnosis.
Q: Can fibroids turn into cancer?
Fibroids are almost always benign, or not cancerous, and they rarely turn into cancer (less than 0.1 percent of cases). Having fibroids does not increase a woman's chances of getting cancer of the uterus.