What are fibroids?
A fibroid is a non-cancerous tumour that grows in and around the womb (uterus). It is also known as a myoma. Fibroids develop from the muscle tissue of the uterus. They can vary in size, from being so tiny you can’t see them with the naked eye to being the size of a melon.
What are the symptoms of fibroids?
Most women with fibroids do not experience symptoms. When fibroids do cause symptoms, the most common ones include:
- heavy or prolonged periods
- frequent urination
- pain or pressure in the pelvic area
- period pain
- painful sex
- needing to urinate (wee) a lot
Sometimes, fibroids can cause complications. Large fibroids may cause infertility by preventing a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb or blocking the fallopian tubes, although this is rare. Fibroids in pregnant women may also cause difficulties during labour, and the loss of pregnancy (miscarriage) in rare cases.
What causes fibroids?
The cause of fibroids is unknown. However, the female hormone oestrogen has been linked to the growth of fibroids.
Fibroids usually develop during a woman’s reproductive years, and may shrink after menopause due to reduced oestrogen levels.
When should I see my doctor?
If you are experiencing pelvic pain or symptoms, or have been trying to get pregnant, speak to your doctor.
How are fibroids diagnosed?
Fibroids are usually found during a gynaecological examination, pelvic ultrasound or during surgery for other conditions.
Fibroids may be found during a hysteroscopy, in which a thin telescope is used to examine the uterus, or during a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery), in which a thin telescope is inserted through a small cut in the abdomen to look at the uterus.
How are fibroids treated?
Fibroids don’t necessarily have to be treated unless they cause bothersome symptoms or complications. The type of treatment will depend on your symptoms, and the fibroid’s position and size.
Treatment options include:
- hormone medications, which shrink the fibroid
- a hormone-releasing device placed in your womb, which reduces heavy periods
- uterine artery embolisation, which shrinks the fibroid by blocking its blood supply
- surgical removal of the fibroid
- high-intensity focused ultrasound waves to destroy the fibroid
- removal of some or all of the womb — usually only for women who don’t wish to have children
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Last reviewed: August 2019