Uterine FibroidsUterine-Fibroids-Image

A uterine fibroid is a growth or tumor, which is located in the walls of the uterus. Although, the word tumor often makes people think of cancer, in most cases, fibroids are not cancerous. Fibroids are very common in women of childbearing age. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of women will develop a uterine fibroid during their lifetime. It is important to understand that having uterine fibroids does not increase a women’s risk of developing uterine cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.


Uterine fibroids start as irregular cells in the uterus, which grow into a tumor. Some women who develop a uterine fibroid only have one, while other women may develop multiple fibroids. The size of the fibroids can also vary from very small to large. Fibroids may remain the same size for years or suddenly increase in size. Although it is possible fibroids will shrink on their own, this usually only occurs after menopause, when hormone levels drop.  

Risk Factors

Although all women can develop a uterine fibroid after puberty, there are a few factors that increase a women’s risk, including the following:

  • Family History: If a woman has a family history of uterine fibroids, it increases the chances she will develop a fibroid at some point in her life.
  • Early Puberty: Women who have their first menstrual period before they are 10 years old are also at increased risk.
  • Race: According to WebMD, African-American women get uterine fibroids more often than Caucasian women.  


The exact reason why some women develop a uterine fibroid and some women don’t is not fully understood. It is clear genetics may play a role, since having a family history of fibroids is a risk factor. Hormone levels most likely play the biggest part in fibroid development. Specifically the hormone estrogen is believed to cause fibroids. When levels of hormones are at their highest, such as during pregnancy, fibroids tend to develop the fastest. During menopause when hormone levels drop, uterine fibroids tend to stop growing in women.


Not all women who have a uterine fibroid will have symptoms. Many women don’t even know they have them until they have a pelvic exam.  If symptoms occur, they may vary in intensity depending on the size of the fibroid. When symptoms do develop, they may include prolonged and heavy vaginal bleeding, a frequent need to urinate and pelvic pain. Additionally, some women also develop pain in their back, constipation and pain during intercourse.

When to Seek Help

Women who do not have symptoms of a uterine fibroid will often not need treatment. However, if fibroids are interfering with a woman’s quality of life or causing continued symptoms, treatment may be recommended. For example, if a woman is having persistent pelvic pain or difficulty with urination, it is best to see a doctor. If menstrual bleeding has increased significantly, it is always best to be evaluated. Increased menstrual bleeding can lead to anemia in some instances.

Patient Information

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