Have you ever heard of fibroids? If you’re a woman, especially in your 30s or 40s, it’s important that you know what they are. An estimated 70–80% of women in the US have these non-cancerous growths that form in, on, or around the uterus. They may vary in shape, location, and size—some fibroids are roughly the size of a pea while others can grow large enough to fill a woman’s pelvis or abdomen.
Fibroids do not always cause symptoms, so many women may never know they’re there. If symptoms do occur, they may include menstrual changes such as heavier, longer, or more frequent periods; vaginal bleeding at times other than during menstruation; pain during menstruation or sex; lower abdominal or pelvic pain or abdominal cramps; difficult or frequent urination; constipation, rectal pain, or difficult bowel movements; an enlarged uterus and abdomen; or miscarriages or infertility.
Today, there are more options than ever available to treat fibroids. If symptoms are mild, medication, such as birth control pills to control heavy bleeding and painful periods, may help. Older women may decide to forgo treatment because fibroids generally shrink after menopause. Some women, regardless of age, decide to skip treatment altogether.
Surgery or other non-surgical procedures to remove fibroids may be necessary when fibroids cause severe discomfort, excessive bleeding, fibroid-related infertility, or when it is unclear whether the growth is a fibroid or another type of tumor (such as ovarian cancer). More information about treatment options is available on the ACOG website.
Women who experience symptoms should report them to their doctor. If fibroids are to blame, an appropriate treatment plan can be developed. When considering treatment possibilities, it’s important to weigh the severity of the symptoms, plans for having children in the future, age, and whether a surgical or non-surgical approach is preferred.