What are Fibroids?
One in five women between the ages of 18 and
50 will develop fibroids. These are generally benign tumors of the womb,
but they have been nicknamed "fireballs" by women having severe symptoms
ranging from heavy bleeding to severe pain requiring a hysterectomy. They
are also responsible for 200,000 hysterectomies per year in the United States
alone. Also known as myomas or
leiomyomas, fibroids are simply non-cancerous overgrowths of uterine smooth
muscle cells. These tumors are estrogen-dependent; they need estrogen
in order to grow. Fibroids increase throughout a woman's premenopausal
years, affecting two out of every five women in their 40s. Fibroids often
grow most rapidly during the perimenopausal years, the 2-10 years preceding
menopause when estrogen levels are high, but progesterone levels are low.
The good news is that fibroids generally shrink after menopause. Their
cause is unknown, although it is believed that some women may have a genetic predisposition.
Fibroids are generally located in the wall
of the uterus, but can also grow inside the uterine cavity or on the outside
of the uterus, either as an extension of the uterine wall or on a stalk ("pedunculated
fibroids"). Rarely, fibroids can protrude or block the opening of
the cervix, the mouth of the uterus.
Fibroids are extremely common, affecting one
in four to one in five women. The vast majority of women with fibroids,
however, are unaffected and need no treatment. They vary tremendously
in size, from as small as a pea to as large as a pregnancy. Women may
have one fibroid or several.
who are symptomatic, are most likely to be over 35, and may experience a broad
range of problems. While there are now several non-surgical ways to manage
fibroids, they are the most common reason for hysterectomy (removal of the uterus),
which is the most common major operation performed on non-pregnant women in the U.S.
Created: 8/18/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.