Uterine fibroids are among the most common tumors in women. These benign growths of the uterus often appear during childbearing years. Uterine fibroids are also called fibromyomas, leiomyomas or, simply myomas, and they are not usually associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer.
Up to 75% of women have uterine fibroids, but because there are often no symptoms associated with this condition, most women are not aware of them. Your provider may discover fibroids during a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound. Fibroids cause problems for about one in four women, most frequently during their 30s or 40s.
Although women with uterine fibroids do not usually have symptoms, there are some signs and symptoms that can be related to fibroids. Those symptoms include:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Prolonged menstrual periods or bleeding between periods
- Pelvic pressure or pain
- Urinary incontinence, frequent urination or urine retention
- Backache or leg pains
In rare cases, a fibroid can cause intense pain, usually when it does not receive enough blood as nourishment. In this case, the fibroid can begin to degenerate, producing byproducts that can seep into surrounding tissue, causing pain and fever. A fibroid that hangs by a stalk inside or outside the uterus, called a pedunculated fibroid, can sometimes trigger pain if it turns on its stalk, thereby cutting off its own blood supply.
The location of a fibroid influences the signs and symptoms. For example, fibroids that grow into the inner cavity of the uterus, called submucosal fibroids, can cause prolonged, heavy menstrual bleeding. Fibroids that project to the outside of the uterus, called subserosal fibroids, can press on your bladder or ureters, causing you to experience urinary symptoms. If fibroids bulge from the back of your uterus, they can press either on your rectum, causing constipation, or on your spinal nerves, causing backache.