Q. What are uterine fibroids?
A. Uterine fibroids are lumps of body cells and tissues that grow in the wall of the uterus (womb). The fibroids can grow alone or in groups. They may grow within the wall of the uterus, stick out of the uterus, or grow into the uterus.
Q. What causes uterine fibroids?
A. No one knows what causes uterine fibroids. Most fibroids are found in women of childbearing age. Fibroids are very common and affect one out of every five women who have not gone through menopause (the change of life). They are more common among African American women than among Caucasian women. Fibroids tend to stop growing or may even shrink after menopause.
Q. Are uterine fibroids a kind of cancer?
A. No. Uterine fibroids are not cancer. Many people think that fibroids mean cancer because they are called tumors. Fibroids are benign tumors. This means that they do not have cancer cells. Fibroids almost never develop into cancer and do not increase a woman?s chance of having cancer of the uterus.
Q. Is there anything I can do to keep from getting uterine fibroids?
A. No. Some studies have shown that women who have children have less chance of having fibroids than women who have no children. It is not clear if having children keeps a woman from having fibroids or if having fibroids makes it harder for women to get pregnant and have children.
Q. What are the signs that I might have uterine fibroids?
A. Some women with fibroids may feel pain during their periods, bleed between periods, have a feeling of fullness in the lower stomach area, feel pressure on their bladder, feel pain during sex, or have lower back pain. Most fibroids do not cause any problems and don?t need any special treatment other than checkups by your doctor.
Q. What is the treatment for uterine fibroids?
A. If you have no problems with your fibroids, you don?t need treatment. Your doctor should check your fibroids at each visit to make sure there are no changes.
In the past, doctors often told women with fibroids that they needed to have their uterus taken out. This is a surgical procedure called a hysterectomy. Today, doctors are taking more of a watch and wait approach. For women who have pain and other problems from their fibroids, doctors say try taking medicine for the pain, getting hormone treatments to keep the fibroids from growing, and having the fibroid taken out if you have really bad pain.
Remember, any medical treatment has risks and benefits. Be sure to talk with your doctor about your choices for taking care of your uterine fibroids.