The 5 Biggest Myths Surrounding Uterine Fibroids
Acessa Health | October 26, 2020
Fibroids are a very common type of pelvic tumor amongst women. Despite their prevalence, however, fibroids are widely misunderstood. A number of popular misconceptions, in particular, create confusion for women with fibroids who are trying to understand their condition and treatment options. To clear up some of this confusion, we’re breaking down five of the most common myths surrounding fibroids.
MYTH: If you have fibroids, you will experience symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding and pain.
FACT: For some of us, fibroids can cause severe discomfort and take a toll on our daily lives. But for others, fibroids may be asymptomatic. Researchers estimate that around 15-30% of women with fibroids develop symptoms that cause pain or discomfort.1 Many women with asymptomatic fibroids never even know that they have the condition. And, because fibroid tumors are almost always benign, women who aren’t experiencing symptoms may opt to forgo treating their fibroids.
MYTH: A routine ultrasound will detect any uterine fibroids that are present.
FACT: If fibroids are suspected, the first diagnostic tool gynecologists employ to confirm the suspicion is transvaginal ultrasound. However, this imaging method doesn’t always reveal all existing fibroids. The size and location of uterine fibroids varies greatly, and extremely small fibroids, submucosal fibroids, and small fibroids that are hidden behind larger fibroid tumors, aren’t always detectable through a routine transvanginal ultrasound. For clearer visualization of the tumors, physicians frequently rely on laparoscopic ultrasound, which requires inserting the instrument through an incision in the abdominal wall. Research has shown that laparoscopic ultrasound can detect up to twice as many fibroids as transvaginal ultrasound.2
MYTH: Fibroid tumors will become cancerous.
FACT: Uterine fibroids, also known as leiomyomas, are almost always benign; while fibroids can range in size, quantity, and location, fibroid tissue on its own is typically harmless. In fact, uterine fibroids aren’t associated with a higher risk of uterine cancer, and almost never develop into cancer.3 While fibroids typically shrink after menopause, those that do appear in post-menopausal women may be the cancerous type, called leiomyosarcoma. It’s important to note, however, that regardless of age, simply having fibroids does not increase a woman’s chances of developing cancer in her reproductive organs.
MYTH: Endometrial ablation is a method of treating fibroids.
FACT: Endometrial ablation, also known as GEA, is commonly used to treat abnormal uterine bleeding. The technique entails destroying the layer of tissue that lines the uterus known as the endometrium, preventing new tissue from growing and thereby reducing or eliminating menstrual bleeding.4 While you may have heard EA discussed in the context of fibroids, it is not, in fact a fibroid treatment. The destruction of fibroids that can occur with EA is incidental and is not likely complete. However, GEA can be used in conjunction with other fibroid treatments like the Acessa procedure or myomectomy, to achieve amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation.)
MYTH: If left untreated, fibroids will continue to grow throughout a woman’s lifetime.
FACT: The growth patterns of uterine fibroids vary. It is possible for fibroids to grow rapidly or remain the same size. Some evidence shows that hormones play a factor in their growth.2 Estrogen and progesterone (the hormones that prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy) appear to promote the growth of fibroids.2
Fibroids contain more estrogen and progesterone receptors than normal uterine muscle cells do.2 Some women that experience fibroids during pregnancy may notice their fibroids shrink or disappear after their uterus goes back to its normal size. Fibroids can also shrink after menopause due to a decrease in hormone production.2 The good news is that fibroids only require treatment if and when they start to cause symptoms.
The good news? Women have options to treat their fibroids.
To determine if you have fibroids, or if fibroids are interfering with your quality of life, it’s advisable to discuss treatment options with a gynecologist. With a plethora of treatments available to women with fibroids, it’s important to recognize that there are risks and benefits associated with every procedure — and not all procedures are right for every woman. See a doctor to discuss if the Acessa procedure may be right for you.
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- Borah BJ, Nicholson WK, Bradley L, Stewart EA. The impact of uterine leiomyomas: a national survey of affected women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2013:209:319.e1-319.e20
- Levine, D.J. et al. “Sensitivity of Myoma Imaging Using Laparoscopic Ultrasound Compared With Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Transvaginal Ultrasound”, Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology. Nov/Dec 2013; Vol 20(6): 770-4
- Mayo Clinic—Uterine Fibroids—www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-fibroids/symptoms-causes/syc-20354288
- Mayo Clinic – Endometrial Ablation- https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/endometrial-ablation/about/pac-20393932
Acessa Health encourages patients to seek medical attention for typical and atypical symptoms associated with fibroids to help achieve and maintain good health with as high a quality of life as possible. Although many patients may benefit from the Acessa Procedure, this treatment is not for everyone and results may vary. You should talk to your doctor about the potential benefits and risks and whether this treatment is right for you. Information contained on this site is not to be used as a substitute for talking to your doctor. You should always talk to your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.