Fibroids are benign muscular tumors that grow inside or outside of your uterus. Uterine fibroids are common among women of all races and ethnicities but are most likely to afflict African-American women. Fibroids usually appear after you’re 30 and may shrink or disappear once you go through menopause.
At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida, Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD diagnose and treat fibroids. If you have these benign tumors, here’s how they could affect your health and fertility.
Fibroids are almost never cancerous
The first thing you should know about your fibroids is that they’re benign — that is, non-cancerous — tumors that are formed out of uterine muscle cells. They can be as small as a seed or (rarely) as large as a basketball. You may have one fibroid or you may have numerous fibroids.
If you’re diagnosed with benign fibroids, they remain benign throughout your life, until they shrink or are removed. A fibroid is called a myoma or, sometimes, a leiomyoma. Not only are myomas benign, but they don’t increase your chances of uterine or other types of cancer, either.
A cancerous fibroid, in contrast, is called a leiomyosarcoma and is cancerous from the outset. Only one in every 1,000 women develops a leiomyosarcoma.
Fibroids may cause discomfort
Although many fibroids don’t cause any symptoms at all, particularly when they’re small, if you have large or numerous fibroids, you may find that they impact your quality of life. Typical symptoms associated with fibroids include:
- Heavy bleeding
- Painful periods
- Passing large clots
- Increased urinary urgency
- Lower back pain
- Pain during sex
If your fibroids are large, you also may notice that your lower abdomen looks distended. When your fibroids start to impact your quality of life, we may recommend hormonal birth control to shrink them. If you don’t experience relief or if you want to become pregnant in the near future, we may recommend surgical removal, which is called myomectomy.
Some fibroids are pedunculated, which means that they grow on a type of stem, which is also made from uterine muscle cells. Pedunculated fibroids may twist, which could cause extreme pain. You may opt to have these types of fibroids removed.
Fibroids may complicate conception or pregnancy
In some cases, large fibroids may make it more difficult than usual to become pregnant. Rarely, large fibroids may cause complications during a pregnancy, too, including:
- Pre-term delivery (i.e., preemie)
- Baby not in right position (i.e., breech)
- Placental abruption
- Labor doesn’t progress
Having fibroids also increases the odds that you need to deliver your baby via a cesarean section. However, most women with fibroids have normal vaginal childbirths.
Though fibroids are benign, if they cause uncomfortable symptoms or hamper your efforts to become pregnant, our treatments can help. We advise the best course of action — watch and wait, hormonal therapy or removal — based on your symptoms and your goals.
If you suspect that you have fibroids, or if you’re interested in shrinking or removing them, contact the Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville office nearest you for a consultation and treatment today.