Fibroid tumors are benign growths that develop in the uterine tissue. They are also known as uterine leiomyomas

These noncancerous growths are very common. It’s estimated that 70% of women in the US develop fibroids by age 50. They can cause challenging symptoms, including heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, and bloating. However, some women don’t have symptoms and might not realize they have fibroids.

By learning more about uterine fibroids and potential treatment, you’ll be better able to take control of your health. Here’s everything you need to know about fibroid tumors in the uterus, including information about getting relief from your symptoms. 

What Is a Uterine Fibroid Tumor?

A fibroid tumor — or leiomyoma — is a mass of tissue forming in the uterus’s smooth muscle. Leiomyoma is a Greek word that means ‘smooth muscle growth.’

  • Leio means smooth
  • Myo means muscle
  • Oma means growth or mass

While uterine leiomyomas, or fibroid tumors, predominantly form as benign masses of muscle and tissue within the uterus’s smooth muscle, there is a small but notable risk of malignancy. Specifically, about one in 1,000 leiomyomas can develop into a cancerous growth, underscoring the importance of monitoring and, when necessary, treating these tumors. These fibroids, nourished by uterine blood vessels, vary widely in size and number, ranging from as tiny as a pea to as large as a melon, and a woman may have just a few or many. Without intervention, fibroids may grow larger, potentially exacerbating symptoms and leading to severe health issues, including anemia and infertility.

Types of Fibroid Tumors

Fibroids are classed as intramural, subserosal, or submucosal, depending on where they grow. 

Some uterine fibroids are attached to the uterus by a stalk. These leiomyomas are called pedunculated fibroids. So, for instance, a pedunculated subserosal fibroid tumor grows on the inside of the uterus and is attached by a stalk.

What Causes Fibroid Tumors?

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes a leiomyoma of the uterus to start growing. However, research does show that several factors are associated with fibroid tumor development. 

  • Genetics: Certain gene mutations, including MED12 and FH genes, are linked to fibroids, which is why women with a family history of leiomyomas are more likely to develop them. 
  • Hormones: High levels of estrogen or low levels of progesterone can lead to uterine fibroid tumors. 
  • Vitamin D deficiency: Studies show that most women who are diagnosed with fibroid tumors have a vitamin D deficiency.

Fibroid Tumor Symptoms 

The majority of people with uterine fibroids experience no noticeable symptoms. However, some cases of fibroids can be debilitating, causing issues that can disrupt your work, your social life, and your self-esteem

When you know how to recognize the symptoms of uterine fibroid tumors, you can take steps to protect your health. Here are some of the most common fibroid symptoms:

  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Heavy periods lasting ten 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

Could your symptoms be signs of fibroids? Use our free symptom checker to learn more. 

Fibroid Symptom Checker

What Are the Major Risk Factors for Fibroid Tumors in the Uterus?

Fibroids can affect any woman of reproductive age. They’re more common after 35 but can develop in women in their 20s or teens. 

Aside from age, several risk factors are known to increase your risk of fibroids, including the following:

  • Not getting pregnant
  • Early onset of menstruation
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Family history of fibroids
  • Late onset of menopause

Getting Treatment for Fibroid Tumors

If you’re experiencing symptoms related to fibroids, it’s important to see a specialist. An experienced fibroid doctor will give you an exam and a diagnosis so you can get the treatment you need to start feeling better. 

At USA Fibroid Centers, our doctors offer a minimally invasive fibroid treatment that can be completed in our state-of-the-art fibroid centers in less than an hour. Our empathetic doctors will ensure you get the care you need. Book a consultation at a location near you or set up a virtual doctor’s visit. 

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Frequently Asked Questions 

Can a uterine fibroid tumor be cancer?

In extremely rare cases, a fibroid tumor can turn out to be cancer. Leiomyosarcoma is a cancer that develops in smooth muscle, including uterine tissue. 

Having fibroids doesn’t increase your chances of developing this type of cancer. 

Learn more about fibroids and cancer

Are larger fibroid tumors more likely to cause symptoms?

Any size fibroid can cause symptoms. Whether fibroids are symptomatic and how severe your issues are depends on the location and other factors, such as whether or not they press against a nearby organ or nerve.

While fibroids generally cause more severe symptoms as they grow larger, a cluster of small fibroids can also affect other organs and cause painful symptoms. Fibroid tumors can be grouped into three different size categories:

  • Small fibroid: up to 20 mm but no more than the size of a cherry
  • Medium fibroid: from 20 to 60 mm, and can be the size of a plum up to an orange
  • Large fibroids: at least 60 mm and can be comparable to a grapefruit up to a watermelon

How are fibroids treated?

Our doctors specialize in a non-surgical procedure called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). UFE involves blocking the fibroids’ blood supply instead of removing the uterus or surgically removing the tumors. 

UFE is FDA-approved, minimally invasive, and has a higher success rate. Learn more about treating fibroids with UFE.

Connect With Fibroid Specialists Near You

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Life with fibroids can be painful and challenging. Timely detection and treatment of fibroids can relieve symptoms, as well as reduce your risk for hysterectomy.

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