What are fibroids?
Fibroids are abnormal tumours that develop in the uterus. Most of the time, fibroids grow on the uterine wall, but sometimes they can grow on the outside of the uterus, or inside the uterine cavity. Fibroids can cause symptoms such as heavy bleeding, painful periods, and lower back pain.
It's very common for a woman to have fibroids. By the time a woman reaches the age of 50, there's a 70% to 80% chance that she'll have one or more fibroids. However, because women with fibroids don't always have symptoms, many cases of fibroids are undiagnosed.
Why do women get fibroids?
The reasons why fibroids develop in some women are not well understood. However, it does seem that there are risk facts, such as age and hormone imbalances, that can increase the chance that a women will develop them. As well as this, if you have one or more close family members with fibroids, there's a higher chance that you'll have them too.
Are fibroids cancerous, or do they cause cancer?
Fibroids are benign tumours, which means they are not cancerous. There's no risk that a benign fibroid will become malignant, and, having fibroids does not increase your risk of developing other kinds of uterine cancer.
In very rare cases a woman can develop a cancerous kind of fibroid called a leiomyosarcoma, but these do not develop from an existing benign fibroid. Around one in 1,000 women with fibroids will develop a leiomyosarcoma.
I've been diagnosed with fibroids. What happens next?
The next step depends on the kinds of symptoms you're having. If your symptoms are mild or non-existent, chances are there's no need to have any immediate treatment. In this case your symptoms will be monitored over time.
If you're having severe pain or heavy periods, the next step would be to look at your treatment options.
Do I need surgery if I have fibroids?
Women who have very large fibroids, or multiple fibroids, might need to have surgery to remove them. In some cases, a woman may need a hysterectomy in order to remove fibroids that are very painful or cause extremely heavy bleeding.
What other fibroid treatments are there?
Less invasive treatment options are available to some women, depending on the type of fibroids they have. For example, some fibroids can be destroyed by a process called endometrial ablation, where the lining of the uterus is removed. Another option, called myolysis, involves using electric current to destroy fibroid tissue.
Can I still get pregnant if I have fibroids?
Yes! Most women with fibroids are still able to get pregnant and have a normal pregnancy. However, having fibroids does increase the risk that a woman might have problems during pregnancy or when giving birth. Some women may need to have treatment for their fibroids before they can carry a pregnancy successfully. This is important because pregnancy can accelerate the rate of fibroid growth.
If you have fibroids and get pregnant, your doctor will monitor your symptoms and your pregnancy to make sure there are no problems. Note that some treatment options for fibroids—including endometrial ablation and hysterectomy—remove a woman's ability to get pregnant.