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 muscular tissue of the uterus. They can vary in size, from being too tiny to be seen with the naked eye to being melon-sized.
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.
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.
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. Fibroids in pregnant women may also cause difficulties during labour, and the loss of pregnancy (miscarriage) in rare cases.
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 to look at the uterus.
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.
When to see a doctor
If you are experiencing pelvic pain or symptoms, or have been trying to get pregnant, speak to your doctor.
Last reviewed: August 2017