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Uterine Fibroids

Fibroids are firm, dense tumors made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue. They develop in the uterus. About 1 in 5 to 1 in 2 women of reproductive age have fibroids, but not all are diagnosed. Some estimates say that up to 3 in 10 to about 3 in 4women will have fibroids sometime during their childbearing years. Only about one-third of these fibroids are large enough to be found by a healthcare provider during a physical exam.

In more than 9 in 10 fibroid cases, the tumors are not cancer. These tumors are not linked to cancer and don’t increase a woman’s risk for uterine cancer. They may be as small as a pea to as large as a softball or small grapefruit.

What causes uterine fibroid tumors?

Doctors don’t know what causes uterine fibroids. It may be that each tumor develops from an abnormal muscle cell in the uterus. This cell multiplies rapidly because of the effect of estrogen.

Who is at risk for uterine fibroids?

Women who are nearing menopause are at the greatest risk for fibroids. This is because of their long exposure to high levels of estrogen. Women who are obese and of African-American background also seem to be at higher risk. The reasons for this are not clearly understood.

Other risk factors:

  • Diet high in red meat
  • Family history of fibroids
  • High blood pressure

What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?

Some women who have fibroids have no symptoms. Or they have only mild symptoms. Other women have more severe symptoms. These are the most common symptoms for uterine fibroids:

  • Heavy or lengthy periods
  • Abnormal bleeding between periods
  • Pelvic pain. This happens as the tumor presses on pelvic organs
  • Frequent urination
  • Low back pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • A firm mass often near the middle of the pelvis. This can be felt by your healthcare provider.

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