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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are growths found inside your uterus. Uterine fibroids also may be called tumors or leiomyomas. Uterine fibroids often appear in groups, or you may have only one. They can be small or large, and they can grow. They are almost always benign (not cancer) and likely will not spread to other parts of your body. They may grow when you are pregnant and shrink after you no longer have a monthly period.
What increases my risk for uterine fibroids?
The cause of uterine fibroids is not clear. Ask your healthcare provider about these and other risk factors for uterine fibroids:
- A family history of uterine fibroids
- Too many female hormones, especially estrogen
- Menstrual periods starting before age 13
- Too much body weight
- Not having children
- Drinking alcohol
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:
- Heavy or painful menstrual bleeding
- Pelvic pressure and pain
- Increased pelvic pain during sex
- Constipation or pain when you have a bowel movement
- Need to urinate often
How are uterine fibroids diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Tell the provider if any women if your family have had uterine fibroids. You may also need any of the following:
- A pelvic exam is also called an internal or vaginal exam. During a pelvic exam, your healthcare provider gently puts a speculum into your vagina. A speculum is a tool that opens your vagina. This lets your healthcare provider see your cervix (bottom part of your uterus). With gloved hands, your healthcare provider will check the size and shape of your uterus and ovaries.
- A vaginal ultrasound is used to see inside your uterus and to check your ovaries. During this test, your healthcare provider places a small wand in your vagina. Sound waves from the wand show pictures of the uterus and ovaries.
- A biopsy is a tissue sample of a fibroid that your healthcare provider 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:
- Hormones may help shrink your fibroids.
- Contraceptives help prevent pregnancy. They also may help shrink your fibroids.
- NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
- Surgery may be used to remove your uterine fibroids. Surgery may instead be used to block or slow the flow of blood to the fibroid. This may make your fibroids shrink or disappear. Surgery called a hysterectomy may be needed if your fibroids are severe. For this surgery, your healthcare provider removes your entire uterus. After this surgery, you will no longer be able to have children.
What can I do to prevent uterine fibroids?
- Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight can cause fibroids to grow. Talk to your healthcare provider about a healthy weight for you. He or she can help you create a healthy weight loss plan if you are overweight.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy foods, cooked beans, and whole-grain breads and cereals. Fruits and vegetables are especially important for helping lower the risk for fibroids. Your healthcare provider or a dietitian can help you create a healthy meal plan.
- Limit or do not drink alcohol as directed. Alcohol can increase your risk for fibroids. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 1½ ounces of liquor, or 5 ounces of wine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help to quit drinking alcohol.
When should I seek immediate care?
- Your heart begins to race, and you feel faint.
- You begin to pass large blood clots from your vagina.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- 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 questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers 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.
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