Uterine fibroids are common among women of childbearing age. About 40 to 60 percent of women may have them, and most don’t even know it.
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What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are tumors of smooth muscle tissue that grow inside or outside the uterus. They can grow alone or in a cluster.
These growths are almost always benign and do not increase your risk of cancer. For most women, they are small and don’t cause symptoms.
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What Increases My Risk?
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes the growths, but it seems that they may have a genetic cause. Estrogen and progesterone also make them grow larger.
Other factors that contribute to the growth of fibroids include:
- Race: Black Americans are especially vulnerable
- Family history
- A diet high in red meat
- First period before age 10
Vegetables seem to protect against developing fibroids.
What Are the Symptoms and Complications of Fibroids?
Only about a quarter of women with fibroids experience symptoms or problems because of them. They may grow very slow or can be fast growing.
Signs that you may be developing fibroids include:
- Heavy bleeding during periods
- Bleeding between periods
- Pain in your low back or belly
- Pressure or fullness in your belly
- Pain during sex
- Several miscarriages or trouble getting pregnant
Infertility because of fibroids is rare, but their location in the uterus can make it more challenging to become pregnant.
Heavy bleeding with your periods can cause you to feel tired or become anemic. Over-the-counter iron supplements can help. You can also take ibuprofen or other pain relievers to help with cramps.
Large fibroids can cause your stomach to swell, giving you a bloated look. They can also put pressure on your bladder, making you need to use the bathroom more often.
Serious complications from fibroids are uncommon. If you begin having trouble, talk to your doctor about treatment options for fibroids. Birth control pills or other hormone therapy may be able to improve the symptoms of fibroids. You have many other treatment options available if needed.
If you are nearing menopause, you may not need treatment. Once women enter menopause, their estrogen levels drop, and the fibroids shrink or go away.
For more information on uterine fibroids, please contact the Magee Fibroid Treatment Center at 412-641-4435.
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.