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What are Fibroids?

One in five women between the ages of 18 and 50 will develop fibroids.  These are noncancerous tumors of the uterus or womb, but have been nicknamed "fireballs" by women with symptoms from heavy bleeding to severe pain requiring a hysterectomy.  Fibroids don't always require a hysterectomy, but they are the reason for 200,000 hysterectomies per year in the United States alone.

Fibroids need estrogen in order to grow.  Fibroids often grow most rapidly during the years preceding menopause when estrogen levels are high but they generally shrink after menopause.  Most menopausal women with fibroids and no other medical problems can safely take estrogen replacement therapy.

Fibroids vary, but most women with fibroids are unaffected and need no treatment.  Fibroids vary tremendously in size, from as small as a pea to as large as a pregnancy.  Women may have one fibroid or several. Their cause is unknown, but they probably have a genetic predisposition.

When fibroids cause symptoms, they range in severity, but are rarely life threatening.   They include:

  • Back pain
  • Painful, heavy menses
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Bleeding after intercourse
  • Lower abdominal pressure, bloating, or a sense of "fullness"
  • Bladder pressure causing urinary frequency or even leakage
  • Infertility or repeated miscarriages.

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Created: 3/22/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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