It’s estimated that about 70% of women get fibroids at some point during their childbearing years. Though most are asymptomatic, fibroids are the No. 1 reason women have a hysterectomy.
Despite these facts, fibroids aren’t a common topic of conversation for women. At Daniel Esteves, MD, in Lawrenceville, Georgia, our highly skilled OB/GYNs — Dr. Daniel Esteves and Dr. Tania Lugo — want you to know more about fibroids, especially because they affect so many women. Here are some little known facts about fibroids.
Size and number matter
Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that vary in number and size. You can have a single tumor or a cluster of them. These tumors are sometimes as small as an apple seed but could be as large as a grapefruit.
The size of your fibroid or fibroids may determine whether they cause problems for you. You may not feel anything if you have small fibroids — these are called asymptomatic fibroids.
However, larger tumors may cause heavy periods, lower back pain, or frequent urination. They also cause abdominal distention, making you look pregnant.
Hormones stimulate fibroid growth
The size of your fibroids may change over time, growing larger or shrinking. A change in hormone levels influences the growth of these tumors.
For example, during pregnancy when there’s a sudden increase in hormone levels, fibroids grow rapidly. If you have fibroids and get pregnant, you may need more frequent ultrasounds to monitor the fibroid.
When women reach menopause and their hormone levels decline, fibroids shrink or disappear altogether.
Diet choices are a risk factor
What you eat may increase or decrease your risk of developing fibroids. According to the Office on Women’s Health, eating more red meat (beef) and ham may increase your risk of fibroids.
Though your age, family history, and ethnicity are also fibroid risk factors, eating more veggies and less meat may lower your risk of developing these noncancerous tumors.
There are many treatment options
For women with asymptomatic fibroids, we schedule regular visits to monitor the fibroid and no other treatment is needed. If you have fibroids that cause mild symptoms, you can try over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication or we can prescribe hormonal birth control or other medication to ease your symptoms.
If you have fibroids that cause moderate to severe symptoms, surgery is your best treatment option. A hysterectomy, a surgery that removes your uterus, is the only way to cure fibroids — because with no uterus, you can have no uterine fibroid growth — but it’s not the only surgical option.
If you have future pregnancy plans, we can perform a surgery that removes only the fibroid. This procedure is called a myomectomy. Endometrial ablation and uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) are other treatment options for fibroids, but we only recommend them for women without any plans for future pregnancies.
Fibroids are only a concern when they cause problems, but even asymptomatic fibroids need medical monitoring. If you have fibroids, or think you have fibroids, we can confirm a diagnosis and discuss your treatments. Call our office or request an appointment online today.