Uterine Fibroids

What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are growths found inside your uterus (womb). Uterine fibroids also may be called tumors (lumps) or leiomyomas. Uterine fibroids often appear in groups, or you may have only one. They can be small or large, and they can grow in size. They are almost always benign (not cancer) and likely will not spread to other parts of your body.


What increases my risk of getting uterine fibroids?

The cause of uterine fibroids is not clear. Ask your caregiver about these and other risk factors for uterine fibroids:

  • Heredity: Your risk for uterine fibroids may increase if a close family member also has fibroids.

  • Hormone imbalance: Hormones are chemicals that affect your growth. Too many hormones may cause uterine fibroids or make them grow.

  • Early onset of menstrual periods: If you started your period at an early age, you may be at risk for uterine fibroids.

  • Childbearing age: Uterine fibroids occur more often in women of childbearing age. They are even more common when you are 40 to 60 years old. They may grow when you are pregnant and shrink after you no longer have a monthly period.

  • Excess weight: Too much body weight may increase your hormone levels and lead to uterine fibroids. Ask your caregiver about your ideal weight for your height.

What are the signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids?

You may have no signs or symptoms. Symptoms depend on the size, type, and number of fibroids you have. Symptoms also depend on where the fibroids are inside your uterus. Signs and symptoms of fibroids include the following:

  • Heavy or painful menstrual bleeding.

  • Pelvic pressure and pain. You may have increased pelvic pain during sex.

  • Constipation or pain when you have a bowel movement (BM).

  • Frequent need to urinate.

How are uterine fibroids diagnosed?

Ask your caregiver about these and other tests that you may need:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Pelvic exam: This is also called an internal or vaginal exam. During a pelvic exam, your caregiver gently puts a speculum into your vagina. A speculum is a tool that opens your vagina. This lets your caregiver see your cervix (bottom part of your uterus). With gloved hands, your caregiver will check the size and shape of your uterus and ovaries.

  • Vaginal ultrasound: During this test, your caregiver places a small wand in your vagina. Sound waves from the wand show pictures of the inside of your uterus (womb) and ovaries.

  • Biopsy: A biopsy is a tissue sample of a fibroid that your caregiver takes from your uterus for testing.

How are uterine fibroids treated?

You may not need treatment for your fibroids if you do not have symptoms. The following treatments may shrink your fibroids and help your pain:

  • Medicines:

    • Hormone medicine: This medicine changes the level of certain hormones and may then help shrink your fibroids.

    • Contraceptives: These medicines help prevent pregnancy. They also may help shrink your fibroids.

    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine: This group of medicine is also called NSAIDs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine may help decrease pain, fever, and swelling. This medicine can be bought without a doctor's order. This medicine can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people.

  • Surgery: The type of surgery you may have depends on the size, number, and location of your fibroids. Ask your caregiver for more information about the following:

    • Embolization: This surgery blocks or slows the flow of blood to the fibroid. This may make your fibroids shrink or disappear.

    • Myomectomy: This surgery removes your uterine fibroids.

    • Hysterectomy: For this surgery, your caregiver removes your uterus from your body. You may need a hysterectomy if your condition is severe (very bad). After this surgery, you will no longer be able to have children.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • Your symptoms, such as heavy bleeding, pain, or pelvic pressure, worsen.

  • You feel weak and are more tired than usual.

  • You do not feel like your bladder is empty after you urinate. You also may urinate small amounts more often.

  • You have more trouble having or are not able to have a BM.

  • You have new or worse hot flashes.

  • You have any questions about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your heart begins to race, and you feel faint.

  • You begin to pass large blood clots from your vagina.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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