Up to 80 percent of women will have uterine fibroids by the time they reach middle age. It is possible to have fibroids without knowing and many times its not a medical emergency, although they may become very uncomfortable. Most times fibroids do not cause pain or show other symptoms. If it’s possible to have them without knowing and not experience symptoms or side effects, is there any reason for concern? While in most cases fibroids may be harmless, they can grow to big enough to cause problems or become cancerous.
Uterine fibroids are also known as lymphomas and myomas. They are tumors of muscle tissue. They can develop in the uterus itself, the inside of the uterine wall, or on the external surface of the uterus. If they grow outside the uterus they may attach to it by a stalk-like structure. Even when they grow to a large size, it is still rare for them to become malignant.
Having fibroids in the uterus does not always increase your chances of getting uterine cancer. Some fibroids are so small they are undetectable. Others may conglomerate in large masses that alter the shape and size of the uterus and may even be visible from outside.
The most common age at which women develop uterine fibroids is between 30 and 40 years old. However, they may develop at any age. Doctors still do not know why, but uterine fibroids are more common in women of African origin than women of European origin.
See Also: Abdominal Pain: When Should You See a Doctor?
Doctors may discover uterine fibroids during routine medical examinations or ultrasound tests for other conditions. However, noticeable symptoms may occur in cases of large or numerous fibroids, such as heavy and painful periods, bloating and distension of the lower stomach, constipation, excessive frequency of urination, discomfort during sexual intercourse, and frequent miscarriages.
The precise cause of fibroids is still unknown. Current research suggests there may be links with both hormone production and genetic predisposition. The two hormones which harden the wall of the uterus during the monthly cycle, estrogen and progesterone, may affect fibroid growth. During menopause, when these hormones are produced less, fibroids often shrink. There are genetic differences between normal uterine cells and those found in fibroids.
Women of childbearing age and African origin are most at risk. Regardless of racial profile, you are more likely to develop fibroids if they are present in your family history. Other indicators of risk include the onset of menstruation at a young age, long-term use of birth control pills, vitamin D deficiency, poor diet, and excessive alcohol intake.
There is no known way to prevent fibroids, but making lifestyle changes may help reduce the risk. Reducing refined sugar in your diet and eating more fresh fruit and greens lowers the risk of developing fibroids in many women. This may be due to the multi-vitamin content of such foods and the high amount of fiber they contain.
Uterine fibroids are common. In most cases they do not become an issue of concern. If for any reason you suspect you may have developed uterine fibroids, see your doctor for a full medical examination. There are treatments available for fibroids, ranging from oral medication to surgical intervention. The earlier fibroids are detected, the easier it is to treat them.