Fibroids are benign collections of tissue that develop in the uterus. They are very common, especially among women in their 40s and early 50s, and up to 80% of women can have uterine fibroids at some point in their lifetime.
Imaging may be the only indicator
Fibroids may not cause any symptoms. Therefore, many women who have small fibroids never realize it unless they happen to undergo an imaging test.
“While uterine fibroids can be discovered during a routine pelvic exam, they’re more commonly discovered on an imaging study such as a pelvic ultrasound,” said Dr. Rebecca Downs, Marshfield Clinic Health System OB/GYN physician.
If a woman does experience symptoms, they can include:
- Heavy bleeding
- Pain with menstrual cycles
- Feeling of fullness in the lower stomach or enlargement of the lower abdomen
- Frequent urination
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Lower back pain
Uterine fibroid diagnosis and treatment
As mentioned, if your doctor suspects uterine fibroids, a pelvic ultrasound is often the next step to figure out the number of fibroids, size and location. Those results, along with a patient’s symptoms, will help determine treatment. Sometimes the fibroids are simply monitored. Other times, treatment will be necessary.
“Bleeding is often controlled with hormonal medications,” said Dr. Downs. “Sometimes surgery is needed to remove fibroids and/or remove the fibroids and the uterus through a hysterectomy for women who are done having children.”
Could there be complications?
Fibroids are almost always benign and cancerous fibroids are very rare. Furthermore, having fibroids does not increase a woman’s chances of getting other forms of cancer in the uterus.
“Women often feel the most stress initially when they wonder if fibroids need treatment,” said Dr. Downs. “Often, when my patients find out how common fibroids are, they feel at ease knowing they’re not alone.”
Talk to your OB/GYN provider or primary care provider to discuss your specific situation if you’re worried about uterine fibroids.