Uterine fibroids or leiomyomata are areas of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that develop in or on the uterine wall. You can develop one fibroid or many of them. Fibroids are the most frequently diagnosed tumor of the female pelvis and the most common reason for a woman to have a hysterectomy. They are benign, not associated with cancer, and rarely become cancerous.
Uterine fibroids range in size and location. It is their size and location that determine the possible symptoms you may have. Fibroids can be found during a routine gynecologic examination. Many women do not know they have fibroids because they do not experience any symptoms.
- Intramural fibroids are located in the wall of the uterus and are the most common. They can cause the uterus to bulge
- Submucous or Submucosal fibroids are found within the uterine lining and can protrude into the uterine cavity. Generally these are ones that can cause the most problems. Since they are located in the uterine endometrium, they can cause heavy or prolonged bleeding during menstruation
- Subserous or Subserosal fibroids develop on the outside of the uterus and usually have the least symptoms. Subserous fibroids can become pedunculated as they grow, meaning they can develop a stalk. These fibroids can reach out to other organs to gain additional blood supply
The cause of fibroids has not been determined but most fibroids develop in women during their reproductive years. Fibroids need a rich blood supply and estrogen
stimulates their growth. Once menopause
has begun, fibroids generally stop growing and can begin to shrink due to the loss of estrogen. It is estimated that at least 20 to 30% of women have fibroids. Many women do have symptoms and may not know that they have fibroids. Some women only discover that they have fibroids when they become pregnant. Fibroids may cause infertility, miscarriage and early labor. However, many women have carried to term with fibroids. If your doctor recommends getting pregnant while you have fibroids, you may wish to consider getting a second opinion.Treatment
Sometimes it is recommended that you “wait and see” what will happen. This approach is most practical when menopause is not far away and when symptoms are limited. Fibroids generally continue to grow until menopause.