Although uterine fibroids is a common medical condition, many women don’t understand what fibroids are and how they can affect their health. To give you a clearer picture, here is a handy guide to uterine fibroids, complete with a fibroid tumor size chart, a symptom checklist, and treatment options.
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that grow from the walls of the uterus. The medical terms for these fibroids are “leiomyoma” or “myoma.” There is no specific known cause of uterine fibroids, although age, race, genetics, and hormonal fluctuations are thought to be some of the main contributing factors. Uterine fibroid tumors are not unusual; in fact, they affect roughly one-third of all women under age 50. There are different kinds of uterine fibroids, and their size, location, and number can all influence whether a woman will experience fibroid symptoms.
Types of Fibroids by Their Location
Here are four common types of uterine fibroid tumors:
Intramural Fibroids: These fibroids grow in the walls of the uterus and they are the most common type of fibroids. When an intramural fibroid tumor expands, it tends to make the uterus feel larger than normal, which can sometimes be mistaken for pregnancy.
Subserosal Fibroids: These fibroids grow outside the uterine lining. As this type of fibroid continues to grow outward, it can increase in size. If a subserosal fibroid tumor gets too big, it may put additional pressure on the surrounding organs.
Submucosal Fibroids: Theses fibroids grow under the uterine lining and can enter the uterine cavity, causing heavy bleeding. Large submucosal fibroid tumors may increase the size of the uterine cavity and block the fallopian tubes, which can cause complications with fertility.
Pedunculated Fibroids: These floating fibroids grow on small stalks inside or outside the uterus, meaning they can be submucosal or subserosal. Pedunculated fibroid tumors may cause pain or pressure if the fibroid twists on the stalk.
Fibroid Tumor Size Chart
Fibroids can be grouped not just by type, but by size as well. This fibroid tumor size chart offers a helpful visual guide:
- Small: (less than 1 cm to 5 cm): Ranging in size from a seed to a cherry
- Medium: (5 cm to 10 cm): Ranging in size from a plum to an orange
- Large: (More than 10 cm): Ranging in size from a grapefruit to a watermelon
Small fibroids 1 cm and under may not cause you to experience any symptoms; however, 5 cm fibroids and larger may cause women severe pelvic pain and heavy periods. Fibroids that are closer to 10 cm and larger may cause frequent urination, constipation, and a protruding abdomen or belly.
Fibroid growth patterns can be irregular, with dormant periods followed by times when the fibroid enlarges. The largest fibroid ever reported was one that weighed more than 100 pounds when removed. Fibroids can also grow in clusters to create a large, heavy mass. Generally, if fibroids are large in size, weight, and number, there is a greater chance that they will trigger symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
While some women with uterine fibroids may never experience symptoms, others may struggle with chronic pain. Those symptoms can range from uncomfortable to debilitating:
- Heavy, Lengthy Periods: Symptomatic fibroids can cause prolonged, painful, and heavy menstrual bleeding that can continue for more than a week. They may also result in irregular periods, or bleeding in between normal menstruation cycles.
- Pelvic Pain or Pressure: This can lead to a feeling of fullness in the abdominal area.
- Frequent Urination: Sometimes fibroids can press on the bladder and cause frequent urination. Most women suffering from uterine fibroids cannot have a good night’s sleep because they have to visit the bathroom frequently.
- Constipation or Bloating: If the fibroids grow towards the back of the body, pressure on the rectum can cause constipation.
- Fatigue from Anemia: Heavy menstrual bleeding can lead to anemia, which refers to a decrease in the number of red blood cells (RBCs) in the body. This can result in additional symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.
- Pain During Sex: Depending on the location of your fibroids, sexual intercourse can be painful at times and/or cause bleeding afterwards.
- Protruding Abdomen or Belly: An enlarged abdomen can cause clothing to fit differently, and negatively impact body image, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
Risk Factors and Complications
Heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding can lead to anemia. Anemia is the result of an iron deficiency and leads to tiredness and fatigue. If this condition is left untreated, anemia can also cause heart problems.
In some cases, people with fibroids experience problems getting pregnant as well as pregnancy complications and delivery risks. Fibroids growing along the inner uterine wall may make it difficult for a fertilized egg to attach.
Fibroid Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Large fibroids can be diagnosed during a routine pelvic exam. Your doctor may perform an ultrasound to get more detailed information about the size and location of fibroids. You can refer to the fibroid tumor size chart above to visualize how big the fibroid is and how it may be impacting your body.
If you are diagnosed with fibroids, sometimes oral contraceptives are used to manage the levels of estrogen and progesterone. Birth control is a temporary method to reduce fibroid pain or heavy bleeding. Some other hormone therapies may also give temporary relief from fibroids by stopping periods.
A hysterectomy is one of the most common procedures performed for fibroids. According to the National Institutes of Health, 200,000 hysterectomies are performed in the United States every year to eliminate fibroids. Many women experience psychological and emotional issues following a hysterectomy procedure.
Another treatment option is myomectomy, which involves the surgical removal of the fibroids. Because it is a surgery, it requires a longer recovery time.
At USA Fibroid Centers we offer a highly effective, FDA-approved treatment called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). During this minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure, the blood supply to the fibroid tumor is blocked, which causes the fibroid(s) to shrink and eventually die. After a UFE procedure, most patients experience relief in their fibroid symptoms, their menstrual cycle becomes shorter, and the fibroid pain disappears.
If you are suffering from the symptoms of heavy, prolonged, and painful menstrual bleeding, frequent urination, or pelvic pain and pressure, call 855.615.2555 to schedule a consultation with one of our leading interventional radiologists, or fill out our appointment request form. Treatments at USA Fibroid Centers are covered by most insurance plans including Medicaid — learn about your treatment options today.