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Clinically Talking: What to Ask Your Healthcare Supplier If You Suppose You Have Uterine Fibroids

This item was developed in collaboration with The White Dress Project.

Medically assessed by Dr. Kristen A. Matteson

Uterine fibroids are the most common gynecological disease in women of childbearing age. Up to 80% of women by the age of 50 have fibroids, which are benign (benign) tumors that develop in or on a woman’s uterine wall.

Women with small fibroids or fibroids that don’t cause symptoms may never know they have them, but an estimated 20% of women with fibroids will have mild to severe symptoms.

We have Dr. Kristen A. Matteson, an OB-GYN at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School and Women and Infants Hospital, asked some questions women should ask their health care provider (HCP) if they are concerned about fibroid development or believe they may have fibroid symptoms.

What signs and symptoms should I look out for that could mean I have fibroids?

Heavy periods, temporary blood clots during your period, bubbling blood during your period, and sensation of pressure or fullness in the pelvis are common signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids. If you have symptoms such as heavy bleeding between periods, pelvic or lower back pain, increased menstrual cramps, increased urination, pain during sex, or a period that lasts longer than usual, it is important to speak to your doctor as this may indicate something other than fibroids.

How are fibroids diagnosed?

Fibroids are diagnosed through both a physical exam and pelvic ultrasound to determine the number and size of the fibroids. Other types of imaging can be used to find out additional details if necessary.

How do I know I have fibroids and not some other health problem?

The symptoms associated with uterine fibroids, including heavy menstrual bleeding, increased urination, and pelvic pressure, can also be caused by various other health problems. If you have these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor.

What is at risk for developing fibroids?

A family history of uterine fibroids, obesity, and your first period before age 11 may increase your risk of developing uterine fibroids. Race can also be a factor – uterine fibroids are two to three times more likely in black women than in white women.

Is there a way to prevent fibroids?

No, fibroids cannot be prevented. Researchers don’t know why some women develop fibroids and others don’t. However, it is believed that genetics and hormones play important roles in their development. They can increase in size during pregnancy and usually shrink during menopause when estrogen and progesterone levels drop.

Are there different types of fibroids?

Fibroids are balls of smooth muscle cells that grow in the uterus. They can be described by their location inside and outside the uterus.

  • Submucosal fibroids: fibroids inside the uterus
  • Intramural fibroids: fibroids in the wall of the uterus
  • Subserous fibroids: fibroids on the outside of the uterus

The type of symptoms and the severity of symptoms depend on where the fibroids are located, their size, and their number.

Can fibroids become carcinogenic? How can you tell the difference between a fibroid and a cancerous tumor?

Uterine fibroids are extremely common, occurring in up to 70% of women going through menopause. On the other hand, it is extremely rare to find a cancerous tumor during surgery to remove fibroids. There’s no test available that can clearly tell the difference between a benign uterine fibroid and a cancerous tumor before it’s removed and a biopsy done, but research is ongoing to improve this process.

This resource was produced with the assistance of Myovant Sciences.

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