7 Things to Know About Uterine Fibroids

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Chris Illiades, MD on October 15, 2020
  • portrait of pensive African American woman wearing headscarf and hoop earrings
    Fibroids often are a benign, treatable condition.
    Uterine fibroids are very common growths that develop in a woman’s uterus. If you're a woman older than 20, there's a good chance you'll have a fibroid at some time in your life. Uterine fibroids are tumors, but they're most often benign and not cancerous growths. Most don’t cause symptoms, although they can be a problem for some women. Learn more about this common gynecologic condition and when they may require treatment.
  • Uterine fibrioid
    1. Fibroids can vary in size and location.
    The uterus is a muscular organ, and fibroids are muscular tumors. Fibroids can grow inside the uterus, within the muscle wall of the uterus, or outside of the uterus. Sometimes, they grow from a thin stalk attached to the uterus. You could have one or many fibroids. A fibroid can be as small as a marble or as big as a grapefruit. 
  • Smiling mother and daughter in sweaters looking away
    2. Fibroid risk varies, too.
    Fibroids can occur at any age. They usually develop in women 30 to 40 years old. It's estimated that by age 50, up to 80% of women have had a fibroid. After menopause, fibroids tend to shrink away. You may be at higher risk for fibroids if you are African American, are overweight, or eat a lot more meat than vegetables. Fibroids also run in families—you have a much greater risk of fibroids if your mother had fibroids. 
  • Mid adult woman sitting on the bed and suffering from a headache
    3. Different women may have different symptoms.
    Most women with fibroids have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can include heavy bleeding during your periods, bleeding between periods, or painful periods. Other possible symptoms include pain during sex, constipation, and difficulty passing urine. Large fibroids can cause abdominal cramps. They also can make you look pregnant. 
  • Doctor, patient converse
    4. There are many ways to diagnose fibroids.
    Your doctor may be able to feel fibroids during a pelvic exam. If you have a large fibroid or symptoms from fibroids, your doctor may order tests to learn more. Hysteroscopy is one procedure. It allows your doctor to look inside your uterus through your vagina. Fibroids also show up on imaging studies like ultrasound, X-rays, MRI and CT scans. 
  • African American pregnant woman in hospital gown sitting on hospital bed holding stomach
    5. Fibroids can cause pregnancy issues.
    Many women do get pregnant despite fibroids and have normal pregnancies and labor. However, your doctor will want to keep a closer eye on you if you have fibroids. They can make it more likely you'll need a C-section, have a breech birth, or deliver prematurely. Fibroids also can make it harder for you to get pregnant. Not being able to conceive is one reason to treat fibroids. 
  • Young African American female doctor or physician assistant smiling with female patient
    6. Treating fibroids with medication is often a first line of treatment.
    If you don’t have symptoms, you might not need any treatment. If you have bothersome symptoms, medication may be your first option. Birth control pills can control painful and heavy periods. A hormone medication called gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRHa) can stop your periods and shrink fibroids. This medication comes as an injection or a nasal spray. A hormone-releasing intrauterine device (IUD) is another treatment option. 
  • Surgeons
    7. Surgery can cure fibroids.
    Some women have bothersome or severe symptoms from fibroids that don't get better with medication. Removing your uterus (hysterectomy) is the only surgery that can completely cure fibroids. Other procedures target existing fibroids. They don't prevent new ones from developing. These procedures include having an operation to remove the fibroids, freezing them, destroying them with an electric current, and cutting off their blood supply. Women who still want to have children might choose one of these procedures rather than a hysterectomy. 
7 Things to Know About Uterine Fibroids

About The Author

  1. Uterine Fibroids Fact Sheet. Womenshealth.Gov, http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/uterine-fibroids.html
  2. Uterine Fibroids. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Uterine-Fibroids

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 15
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.