Fibroids affect roughly 20 to 35% of women of childbearing age. The most common form of tumour found in the female reproductive system, fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growths that develop in and around the uterus wall. Varying in size, and made up of fibrous and muscle tissue, fibroids are sometimes referred to as uterine myomas. It is estimated that 1 out of 3 women will develop fibroids at some point in their life.
In many cases women do not know they have fibroids as they exhibit no symptoms. Fibroid symptoms to watch out for are:
- Abdominal pain
- Lower back pain
- Heavy or painful periods
- Pain during sex
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Noticeable abdominal mass
In some cases fibroids may cause infertility or problems during pregnancy such as premature labour or, in very rare cases, miscarriage. Occasionally large fibroids may block the opening of the vagina in which case a caesarean section will be necessary.
What causes fibroids?
The exact cause is unknown, however fibroids have been linked to oestrogen, as fibroids usually develop during a woman’s reproductive period, when oestrogen production is most active. When oestrogen levels decrease, the size of fibroids generally decreases as well.
Fibroids risk factors
It is believed fibroids occur more in overweight or obese women, as they have more oestrogen in their body. Women who have had children may have less chance of developing fibroids. Women of African or Caribbean heritage are more likely to get fibroids, yet the reasons for this are unclear.
In some cases, when they stop growing or begin to decrease in size, fibroids may only need to be monitored by a specialist in order to ensure no further abnormalities occur. If the fibroids are large, or causing the patient notable problems, treatment of the fibroids may be necessary.
The type of treatment depends on a number of factors including health, medical history, allergies, or what type of fibroids are present. A specialist will be able to recommend the correct course of treatment for you, depending on your condition and preferences, and whether you wish to be able to give birth in the future.
Sometimes, medication or hormonal treatment is sufficient, but occasionally surgery or other less invasive techniques may be required.