They vary in size from microscopic to the size of a grapefruit. Uterine fibroid tumors are usually diagnosed during a routine pelvic exam. Their exact cause is unknown but there are several contributing factors.
What are fibroid tumors caused by?
Doctors have been able to draw correlations between the following conditions/factors and the development of fibroid tumors.
Estrogen. The more estrogen present, the more rapidly fibroid tumors grow; which is why they are never diagnosed in pre-pubescent girls. While its debatable whether or not estrogen causes them, it definitely plays a role in whether or not a women displays symptoms and/or requires treatment. Uterine fibroids are most common in women between the ages of 30 and 50, and much less prevalent in post-menopausal women.
Obesity. Women who are excessively overweight are two-times more likely to develop fibroid tumors.
Diet. Diets heavier in red meat has been linked to the growth of uterine fibroids, while those who eat plenty of green vegetables seem to be less susceptible.
Genetic predisposition. Women who have mothers or grandmothers with a history of fibroid tumors are more likely to develop them, as well.
Race. African American women are more likely to develop uterine fibroids than any other race and can develop them in their 20s, which is earlier than most other women.
There are several different types of fibroid tumors:
Submucosal – Lie just under the mucous lining of the uterus and they frequently cause bleeding outside of the normal menstrual cycle.
Intramural – Occur in the wall of the uterus and can cause uterine bulking or pain as fibroids get larger.
Subserosal – Located on the outside layer of the uterine wall, and cause problems as they grow and come in contact with other organs.
Pedunculated – These fibroid tumors grow on a stalk, and are generally occur as pedunculated submucosal or subserosal fibroid tumors. They may be symptomatic in the same manner as non-pedunculated tumors.
Symptoms and Treatment of Fibroid Tumors
The most common symptoms of uterine fibroids include:
- Heavy menstrual periods with prolonged bleeding
- Abnormal bleeding
- Pain in the pelvic/lower abdominal region
- A feeling of fullness, or actual enlargement, of the pelvic/lower abdominal region
- Bladder pressure and/or increased need to urinate
- Lower back pain/pressure
Treatments for fibroid tumors may vary. Small tumors will usually go untreated, unless they are symptomatic. Some tumors respond well to medicine, which causes them to shrink. Larger tumors may need to be removed via surgery. Women should notify their doctor(s) if they have a family history of fibroid tumors and make an appointment if they experience any symptoms. Thankfully, the majority of women with fibroid tumors will never experience symptoms requiring invasive treatment.