Uterine fibroid tumors are common during the childbearing years, affecting as many as 80 percent of women by age 50. Despite their prevalence, a fibroid tumor can often go unnoticed until painful, uncomfortable, and unpleasant symptoms arise, such as heavy periods, severe cramps, and low energy.
If you are experiencing fibroid tumor symptoms, you probably already know how challenging it can be to cope with this condition. For some, fibroid symptoms are completely debilitating –– impacting career, social life, personal relationships, and self-esteem.
The good news is that by learning more about uterine fibroids and potential treatment for fibroid tumors, you will be able to take control of your health better. Whether you’ve been diagnosed already or are still searching for answers, our fibroid experts are here to guide you. Here’s everything you need to know about fibroid tumors in the uterus and what to do about them.
What is a Fibroid Tumor?
What are uterine fibroid tumors? Also known as leiomyomas, fibroids, or fibroid tumors –– fibroids are benign, noncancerous growths that can develop in or on the uterus. They form individually or in clusters, and typically range in size from a tiny pea to as large as a melon. Some of the largest ones can weigh more than twenty pounds.
Different types of fibroids exist based on their location.
- Intramural fibroids grow within the muscular walls of the uterus
- Subserosal fibroids grow on the outside of the uterus
- Submucosal fibroids grow in the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium
- Pedunculated fibroids are growths that attach to the wall by a stalk
Although fibroid tumors are not generally considered dangerous, uterine fibroids have the potential to harm surrounding organs, impact fertility, and cause a range of painful and undesirable symptoms.
Each body is different, and everyone experiences fibroids differently.
What Causes Fibroid Tumors?
Although doctors aren’t sure exactly what are fibroid tumor causes, factors that may influence their growth include:
Studies indicate that fibroids tend to grow during times when the levels of hormones affecting the uterine lining –– such as estrogen and progesterone –– are high. For example, pregnancy is a common time for fibroid growth, whereas fibroid tumors tend to shrink after giving birth or beyond menopause.
Your age is an important risk factor. While you can develop fibroids at any age, if you are in your childbearing years, the odds of developing them are higher. On the other hand, women beyond age 50 are less likely to experience symptomatic fibroids.
Finally, there appears to be a genetic link. If you have a close female relative with fibroids, you are more likely to develop them. Also, women of African-American descent are disproportionately affected by fibroid tumors.
Fibroid Tumor Symptoms
The majority of people with uterine fibroids experience no noticeable symptoms. However, some cases of fibroids can be quite debilitating, and the condition can disrupt daily activities. Whether or not this occurs often depends on the fibroids’ size, number, and location. All of these factors can affect the severity of symptoms. Larger or multiple fibroids, for instance, are more likely to cause problems. Common symptoms of fibroid tumors include:
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Heavy periods lasting 10 days or longer
- Abnormal bleeding between periods
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Lower back pain
- Frequent need to urinate or trouble urinating
- Heaviness or fullness of the abdomen
- Anemia caused by heavy bleeding
- Enlargement of the abdomen
You may notice only one of the above, several symptoms, or none at all. If you are experiencing any of these issues, reach out to your doctor or a fibroid specialist since it is important to seek a proper medical diagnosis. Similar symptoms may actually be signs of other, more serious reproductive tract conditions. Early detection is key for the most successful outcomes.
For additional help assessing your fibroid tumor symptoms, please feel free to use our online symptom checker. You may be relieved to learn that a lesser-known outpatient treatment –– involving a nonsurgical method –– is effective, widely available, and can alleviate your symptoms while retaining your fertility.
Fibroid Tumor in Uterus
A fibroid tumor can grow in the lining or within the muscular wall. As they grow, they can cause the uterus to expand as if you were pregnant. You may look pregnant, or like you’ve gained weight in the abdominal area.
Fibroids and pregnancy don’t go well together. The increase in hormone levels from pregnancy can cause fibroids to grow, and those asymptomatic develop severe symptoms. As the fibroid gets larger, it can take up the space needed for the baby. It can also cause the uterus to press on other organs, such as the bladder and bowel.
Can Fibroids Be Cancerous?
Fibroids are almost always non-cancerous. Only one in 1000 fibroid growths will be cancerous. Having fibroids won’t increase your risk of developing cancerous tumors in the uterus. If a doctor is concerned that a tumor is cancerous through an MRI or ultrasound, they will take a biopsy to have it tested.
Since fibroid growths and cancerous tumors can look similar, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your diagnosis. Some fibroid treatments can worsen the situation if the tumors are cancerous, such as myomectomy, which involves the removal of the tumor. Once the tumor has been cut, it can allow the cancer to spread.
Here at USA Fibroid Centers, we offer a minimally invasive treatment that helps to prevent this concern.
Which Fibroid Sizes are Dangerous?
Any size fibroid can be dangerous, depending on location and other factors. While fibroids generally become more dangerous as they grow larger, a cluster of small fibroids can also affect other organs and cause painful symptoms. Fibroids sizes can be labeled into three different categories:
- Small fibroid: would be up to 20 mm but no more than the size of a cherry
- Medium fibroid: would be from 20 to 60 mm, and can be the size of a plum up to an orange
- Large fibroids are at least 60 mm, and can be comparable to a grapefruit up to a watermelon
Treatment for Fibroid Tumors
We want you to know that help is available, and there are many different treatments available for fibroid tumors in the uterus. The ideal treatment for you will depend on the location, number, and size of your fibroids and your personal preferences. Once diagnosed, we recommend consulting with a fibroid specialist to learn about your full range of fibroid tumor treatment options.
The first step toward getting treatment is always an assessment of the fibroids. Suspected fibroid tumors can often be detected during a routine pelvic exam. If your doctor thinks you may have fibroids, they’ll likely order an ultrasound or MRI. Your doctor will use the images generated by these exams to map out your fibroids, noting the number of tumors and their location and measurements.
Once you know more about your fibroids, you can start considering your fibroid tumor treatment options. Although hysterectomy, or surgical removal of the uterus, is one of the most commonly recommended treatments, it is important to be aware that you have other options.
Hysterectomy is a major surgery involving a hospital stay that involves several risks such as excessive bleeding, infection, blood clots, and an adverse reaction to general anesthesia. Additionally, a typical recovery can take six to eight weeks. For women who desire to have children in the future, hysterectomy –– particularly when performed unnecessarily –– can be devastating.
A myomectomy removes the fibroids from the uterus. While it still leaves the uterus intact, it can require a longer recovery time and may result in pregnancy complications from scarring. Fibroids can return after having this procedure done, which may increase the likelihood that a doctor will recommend a hysterectomy in the future.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization
At USA Fibroid Centers, we aim to educate women on all available options. There’s a better treatment path for most women with fibroid tumors than major surgery. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), a non-surgical fibroid tumor treatment, is performed by our fibroid experts in state-of-the-art facilities. After going home on the same day, most patients experience a short recovery period that is typically only one to two weeks. Perhaps even more important –– UFE leaves your uterus and ovaries intact.
UFE is performed by a fibroid specialist who uses ultrasound imaging to locate the fibroids. They will insert a tiny catheter into the thigh or wrist to reach the artery attached to the fibroid. The doctor will inject embolic materials into the artery to stop the blood flow to the fibroid. Once no more nutrients can pass through, the fibroid will begin to shrink and die.
Contact USA Fibroid Centers About Treatment
Whether you need guidance from an expert, insurance coverage information, or a personalized treatment plan, our fibroid specialists can help. Reach out to us and schedule your consultation today. Our top-rated fibroid specialists are available to perform Uterine Fibroid Embolization at dozens of USA Fibroid Centers across the country.
To get started, you can either go online to schedule or just give us a call at 855.615.2555. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you reclaim your life!