Occurring in 25% to 40% of the female population, leiomymomas, or uterine fibroids, are benign tumors that can grow in the uterus. Most often, fibroids are located on the outside surface or within the muscular wall of the uterus. In these instances, the fibroids do not interfere with your reproductive system.
However, occasionally, fibroids grow just under the endometrial lining in the uterus and end up protruding into the uterine cavity. When this occurs, the tumor can hinder the implantation and growth of a developing embryo as well as cause fetal deformities, premature labor and other labor complications.
What Causes Fibroids?
Although no one is sure what causes fibroids, there is some evidence to suggest that estrogen and progesterone contribute to the growth of the tumors. However, these hormones are not the initial cause for the formation of the tumor. There is some speculation as to whether or not there is a hereditary link and researchers are exploring this theory.
Experts have found that there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing uterine fibroids. Black women are two to five times more likely to develop them than white women. Fibroids are most often diagnosed in women between the ages of 30 and 40. While being over weight can increase your risk, giving birth can lower your chances of developing the fibroids.
Symptoms of Fibroids
Pelvic pressure, along with irregular bleeding, are the common symptoms of fibroids. Because fibroids can grow to be quite large, your uterus enlarges and puts pressure on your pelvic area just as if you were pregnant. In fact, fibroids can grow so large, the uterus may expand to the same size as a four- to five-month pregnant uterus.
A pelvic exam can help your doctor assess the size and shape of your uterus, allowing her to detect if there are any irregularities. To get a proper diagnosis of the fibroids, though, it is often necessary to have an ultrasound or an MRI performed. The most effective way of treating fibroids is a hysterectomy. One-third of all hysterectomies performed are for treating fibroids.
However, women wishing to have children can opt for a myomectomy, which is a procedure that removes only the fibroids. Unfortunately, there is often a recurrence of the fibroids and another surgical procedure is required within 10 years.