Uterine fibroids are muscular tumors that are found growing in the wall of the uterus. They are nearly always benign, but the symptoms can be difficult to live with. In extremely rare cases, a fibroid can transform into a malignant tumor.
Fibroids are fairly common and occur in up to 70% of white women and more than 80% of black women,1 sometimes without symptoms. Factors that can increase the risk you develop fibroids include obesity, a family history of fibroids, age and ethnic origin.2
Symptoms include excessive or painful bleeding, bleeding between periods, frequent urination, painful sex, low back pain and an inability to completely empty the bladder when the fibroid places pressure over the urethra. Larger fibroids can cause abdominal distension and a feeling of fullness in the abdomen.3 Excessive bleeding during your period can also lead to anemia.
Treatment is determined by symptoms indicative of fibroids, the size and location of the fibroids, age and whether the woman wants to become pregnant. Unfortunately, most of the treatments currently available negatively affect fertility, making it nearly impossible for a woman to have children.
These treatments include surgical procedures such as a hysterectomy, endometrial ablation where the lining of the uterus is removed or destroyed, uterine fibroid embolization and radiofrequency ablation. Women can also choose a myomectomy, which is a surgical procedure to remove the fibroids without disturbing healthy uterine tissue. How the procedure is performed depends on the size and location of the fibroid.