Fibroids are growths that develop from the smooth muscle layer of the uterus that appear mostly during childbearing years. Also called fibromyomas, leiomyomas or myomas, uterine fibroids aren't associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer and almost never develop into cancer.
One study found that approximately 50% of women have them. Most often they are benign. Very rarely do they become cancerous (less than 0.5% of the time). The growth of fibroids is dependent on estrogen production. When estrogen levels are high, fibroids have the potential to grow. This is the case during pregnancy. Then when estrogen levels are low fibroids diminish. This is the case during menopause. A woman may have one fibroid or multiple fibroids present. They can range in size from microscopic, to very large.
Studies show that up to 20 to 30 percent of women of reproductive age have fibroids. Many of whom have not been diagnosed. It affects African American women at a higher rate than any other ethnic group. African American women have a 3-5 times greater risk of having fibroids than white women. 10 million to 21 million women have fibroids in the United States. Most fibroids do not cause any symptoms and many women are unaware that they have them. However, between 200,000 and 300,000 hysterectomies are performed every year to remove symptomatic uterine fibroids.
Typically fibroids do not cause any symptoms and are often only discovered during routine pelvic exams. In some cases, an ultrasound may be used to determine the extent that fibroids exist. There are other exams available to measure and determine if fibroids exist. However, if fibroids become symptomatic, the symptoms can range from:
• abnormal bleeding (which can mean heavy periods, prolonged periods and bleeding between periods)
• pelvic pain
• pelvic pressure
• depending on the size of the fibroids they can cause pressure on other organs such as the bladder and rectum
• Urinary incontinence or frequent urination
• Backache or leg pains
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