1. Health

10 Things to Know About Uterine Fibroid Tumors

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Updated July 17, 2009

  1. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists or the ACOG, uterine fibroid tumors or leiomyomas are “clinically apparent in 25 to 50 percent of women.” However pathological examinations of removed uteri show that the prevalence of uterine fibroid tumors may actually be as high as 80 percent.

  2. Uterine fibroid tumors or leiomyomas are estrogen dependent – they thrive on estrogen. In fact, uterine fibroid tumors never develop before the onset of menstruation when the female body begins producing estrogen. During pregnancy, fibroid tumors often grow extremely fast due the extra estrogen produced by the body during pregnancy. Most women who have fibroid tumors and who are able to wait until after menopause discover their uterine fibroid tumors shrink and disappear once estrogen production stops in the body. Because of estrogen’s affect, both women who currently have fibroid tumors and those who've had uterine fibroids in the past need to pay particular attention to the potential side effects of estrogen-containing medications.

  3. Fibroid tumors are the most common solid pelvic tumors in women. Because it is not uncommon for women with uterine fibroid tumors to experience none of the symptoms often seen in women with fibroids, treatment is unnecessary unless bothersome symptoms develop before natural menopause. The two most common symptoms of uterine fibroid tumors that cause women to to seek the advice of their health care providers are
    1. excessive uterine bleeding or menorrhagia that lasts longer than seven days
    2. a feeling of pelvic pressure – somewhat like the pressure experienced during pregnancy when the uterus grows larger.

    Often excessive uterine bleeding causes the development of anemia or iron deficiency. Other consequences that may occur due to pressure on adjacent organs include:

    • urinary and bowel problems
    • painful sexual intercourse or dyspareunia.

      While these symptoms can indicate the presence of leiomyomas, they are not definitive symptoms. Other possible causes for these symptoms should be ruled out before a diagnosis of uterine fibroid tumors is made.

    • It is extremely rare that uterine fibroid tumors are cancerous. In a study cited by the ACOG, sarcomas or cancer is present in only about .002 to .003 percent of cases of leiomyomas. Leiomyomas that are cancerous are called leiomyosarcomas.

    • The most common reason given for hysterectomy is uterine fibroids. Today several alternatives are available for the treatment of fibroid tumors. However, many of these treatments have side effects and complications that you should learn about before making your decision about treating your fibroid tumors. Make sure talk to your health care provider about which alternative may or may not be the right treatment choice for your situation. The only "cure" for uterine fibroids is hysterectomy. However, you should know that hysterectomy is considered “elective” surgery by most insurance providers. The only non-elective reasons, according to most insurance providers, for hysterectomy are cancer and hemorrhaging that cannot be stopped by other measures.

    • Uterine fibroid tumors come in several types:
      • subserosal,
      • submucosal,
      • intramural,
      • pendunculated, ]li]interligamentous,
      • and parasitic fibroids
      .

      It's not unusual for women to have more than one type of uterine fibroid tumor. The type of fibroid, as well as the size and location of the tumors, affect which treatment option is best for you.

    • Subserosal or Subserous fibroids grow on the outer wall of the uterus and usually cause no symptoms until they grow large enough to interfere with other organs.

    • Submucosal fibroids These fibroids occur just below the lining of the uterus and can cause menstrual problems, including pain as they grow and move around the pelvic area.

    • Intramural uterine fibroid tumors are round leiomyomas located within the uterine wall and which can cause and increase in uterine size as they grow.

    • Pendunculated leiomyomas develop when a subserous These fibroids develop when a subserous fibroid grows a peduncle or stalk that grows larger and may become twisted, causing severe pain.

    • Parasitic uterine fibroids are the rarest type of leiomyomas and develop when a fibroid tumor attaches itself to another organ.

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