Did you know that up to 80 percent of women will develop uterine fibroids in their lifetime? According to Mayo Clinic, "Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during childbearing years." Fibroids can range from being undetectable by the human eye to bulky masses, and can be treated—if treatment is deemed necessary—with medication, non- or minimally-invasive procedures or traditional surgery. We caught up with gynecologist Maria Sophocles, M.D., for more information.
5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Uterine Fibroids
Meet the Expert
Maria Sophocles, M.D., is a gynecologist and sexual medicine specialist at Women’s Healthcare of Princeton. After graduating with an honors degree in English from Duke University, Dr. Sophocles earned her medical degree from Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. She has more than 25 years of medical experience.
1. Cancer in Fibroids Is Extremely Rare
Even though fibroids are quite common, hearing that you have one (or multiple) can be scary. Dr. Sophocles assures us, though, that fibroids are almost always benign uterine growths. "Cancer in a fibroid is extremely rare," she stresses.
2. The Symptoms Go Beyond Just a Heavier Period
Concerned you might have a uterine fibroid? Dr. Sophocles clues us into some of the most common symptoms. "They can cause: heavy periods, irregular bleeding, pain, frequent urination, pain with moving bowels or pain or bleeding with sex," she notes. If serious, Dr. Sophocles says, "Fibroids can cause such heavy bleeding that they can make you anemic and can even lead to such severe anemia that you can need a blood transfusion." Fibroids are typically found during routine pelvic exams or, if you're experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, through an ultrasound or lab tests.
3. Black Women Are More Likely to Develop Fibroids
While fibroids are far from rare, Dr Sophocles tells us that up to 70 percent of white women and 80 percent of Black women have fibroids. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "[Fibroids] also seem to occur at a younger age and grow more quickly in Black women. These differences may be due to racism and inequities in society, which can increase the risk of health problems."
4. Fibroids Don't Shrink Significantly After Menopause
You might've heard that if you do have fibroids, they'll likely shrink once you go through menopause, but that's not necessarily the case, according to Dr. Sophocles, who notes that if they do shrink post-menopause, the change in size isn't as significant as many people believe.
5. Fibroids Can Be Surgically Removed Without Removing the Uterus
If your doctor decides that your fibroids do need to be removed, there are multiple courses of treatment. "Fibroids can be surgically removed without removing a uterus or can be 'shrunk' without surgery," Dr. Sophocles explains, adding, "There are [also] effective medications to reduce bleeding from fibroids."