Fibroids are muscular tumors that develop in the walls of the uterus. These abnormal growths are exceptionally common: As many as four in five women (80%) have one by age 50. While many of these masses are discovered incidentally or through active investigation, plenty of women with uterine fibroids never know they have them.
If you’ve recently learned you have uterine fibroids, chances are you have concerns about your diagnosis — and questions about what comes next. At New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, our seasoned team can tell you everything you need to know about fibroids — including which “fibroid facts” are common misconceptions.
Fact: It’s natural to think of cancer when you’re diagnosed with a tumor, but a tumor is simply an abnormal growth or mass of cells. Nearly all uterine fibroids are muscular masses of benign or non-cancerous cells. A rare cancerous fibroid occurs in less than one in 1,000 cases.
Further, uterine fibroids don’t become cancerous, and having one doesn’t increase your risk of getting other reproductive cancers.
Fact: One of the biggest myths about fibroids is that they’re extremely painful. While some do trigger pain and other disruptive symptoms, many uterine fibroids never cause symptoms. Why? These growths come in all shapes and sizes and don’t typically cause problems unless they’re in a particularly sensitive location or grow larger.
Often, a “silent” fibroid is found by chance during a routine pelvic exam, and the unsuspecting patient had no previous warning signs or indications of its existence.
Fact: When fibroids do cause symptoms, they can vary widely from one person to the next. This array of symptoms — ranging from chronic pelvic pressure to long, frequent, heavy, or painful periods — can make it easier to confuse the problem for something else or simply dismiss it as “typical women’s health issues.”
If you have general gynecological symptoms, we can check for fibroids with a pelvic exam followed by ultrasound testing.
Fact: Many of our patients worry that having uterine fibroids means they won’t be able to get pregnant easily or at all — or they’ll have a greater chance of miscarriage if they do conceive. In most cases, however, fibroids don’t cause fertility problems or interfere with pregnancy.
If a fibroid grows during pregnancy or changes the shape of the cervix, it can increase the risk of complications like preterm birth, placental abruption, and breech positioning. Compared to women without fibroids, pregnant women with fibroids are six times more likely to require a Cesarean (c-section) delivery.
Fact: Fibroids come in all shapes and sizes. While they may grow, shrink, or remain the same over time, they don’t usually disappear even after menopause. Postmenopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy can even develop new fibroids.
It’s also important to understand that surgical fibroid removal (myomectomy) can’t eliminate the possibility of fibroid recurrence. Once you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids — even if they’ve been treated — you’ll need routine follow-up to check for new, growing, or recurring fibroids.
Fact: In the past, a hysterectomy — or the surgical removal of the uterus — was often the only option for women with problematic fibroids. Today, thanks to ongoing advances in minimally invasive gynecological treatment approaches, we can often successfully treat persistent fibroids without resorting to a total hysterectomy.
We can treat fibroid pain and other symptoms with medication, and we can also prescribe medication or use minimally invasive therapies to shrink fibroid tumors. We may also shrink fibroids before we remove them. In general, a hysterectomy is the best long-term solution for women who are done having children and tired of coping with persistent and problematic fibroids.
Fact: If your fibroid was discovered incidentally and isn’t causing symptoms or problems, we can take a wait-and-see approach. This is especially true if the fibroid is small and not in a bad or sensitive location. In such cases, routine exams and imaging tests can help us keep tabs on the tumor, and if you develop symptoms along the way, we can discuss treatment options then.
Do you have questions about fibroids? We have answers. Call or click online to schedule a visit at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, today.