Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus which sometimes appear during your childbearing years. Also called fibromyomas, leiomyomas or myomas, uterine fibroids aren’t connected with an elevated danger of uterine cancer and almost never develop into cancer.
As many as 3 out of 4 women have uterine fibroids at some point during their lives, but most are unaware of them because they often cause no symptoms. Your medical doctor may find out them incidentally during a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound.
In general, uterine fibroids cause no complications and don’t often require treatment. Medical therapy and surgical procedures can shrink or remove fibroids if you have discomfort or troublesome symptoms. Rarely, fibroids can require emergency treatment if they cause sudden, sharp pelvic pain or profuse menstrual bleeding.
In women who have symptoms, the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids include:
Heavy menstrual bleeding
Prolonged menstrual periods — seven days or more of menstrual bleeding
Pelvic pressure or pain
Difficulty emptying your bladder
Backache or leg pains
Rarely, a fibroid can cause acute pain when it outgrows its blood supply. Deprived of nutrients, the fibroid begins to die. Byproducts from a degenerating fibroid can seep into surrounding tissue, causing pain and fever. A fibroid that hangs by a stalk inside or outside the uterus (pedunculated fibroid) can trigger pain by twisting on its stalk and cutting off its blood supply.
Fibroid location influences your signs and symptoms:
Submucosal fibroids. Fibroids that grow into the inner cavity of the uterus (submucosal fibroids) are thought to be chiefly responsible for prolonged, heavy menstrual bleeding and are a problem for women attempting pregnancy.
Subserosal fibroids. Fibroids that project to the outside of the uterus (subserosal fibroids) can sometimes press on your bladder, causing you to experience urinary symptoms. If fibroids bulge from the back of your uterus, they occasionally can press either on your rectum, causing constipation, or on your spinal nerves, causing backache.
See your doctor if you have:
Pelvic pain that doesn’t go away
Overly heavy or painful periods
Spotting or bleeding between periods
Pain with intercourse
Problems emptying your bladder
Difficulty moving your bowels
Seek prompt medical care if you have severe genital bleeding or sharp pelvic pain that comes on suddenly.