If you have heavy menstrual bleeding, periods that last more than a week, pelvic pressure or pain, frequent urination, difficulty emptying the bladder, constipation, backache or leg pains, you may be experiencing uterine fibroids.
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during childbearing years. Also called leiomyomas (lie-o-my-O-muhs) or myomas, uterine fibroids aren’t associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer and almost never develop into cancer.
They can range in size from merely microscopic; undetectable by the human eye, to large masses that can distort and enlarge the uterus. You can have a single fibroid or multiple ones. In extreme cases, multiple fibroids can expand the uterus so much that it reaches the rib cage.
Many women who have fibroids don’t have the symptoms we listed above, but many experience fibroids sometime during their lives. Commonly, most women don’t know they have uterine fibroids because there are no symptoms. Sometimes your OBGYN will discover fibroids incidentally during a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound.
Although there is no definitive cause for uterine fibroids, research and clinical experience show these variable factors:
- Genetic changes
- Other growth factors such as substances that help the body maintain tissues, such as insulin-like growth factor, may affect fibroid growth.
Scientific studies also show that uterine fibroids develop from a stem cell in the smooth muscular tissue of the uterus. A single cell divides repeatedly, eventually creating a firm, rubbery mass distinct from nearby tissue. Growth patterns may vary – slowly or rapidly, uterine fibroids may remain the same size or vary. Many fibroids that have been present during pregnancy shrink after pregnancy, as the uterus goes back to a normal size.
When should you see a doctor?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, contact us. We can set up a gynecological exam with Dr. Leaphart and she’ll help you determine whether you do or don’t have uterine fibroids.