Fibroids: A Particular Concern for African American Women

Uterine fibroids are growths in the womb (uterus). They are made of muscle and other tissue. Fibroids almost never develop into cancer. Uterine fibroids are very common in women of childbearing age. No one knows what causes fibroids.

The US Food and Drug Administration say that fibroids affect more than 1 out of 5 women under age 50. They are the cause for 3 out of every 10 hysterectomies. Hysterectomy is surgery to take out the womb.

Who is at risk for fibroids?

  • African-American women have a greater risk than white women.
  • Women who are overweight have greater risk than those who are not.

What are the symptoms?

Many women don't feel any symptoms. Without symptoms, you probably won't even know that you have fibroids. Fibroids can cause these symptoms:

  • Heavy bleeding or painful periods.
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Feeling "full" in the lower part of your belly
  • Needing to use the bathroom often
  • Pain during sex
  • Lower back pain
  • Not being able to have a baby (infertility), losing a baby (miscarriages), and early labor during pregnancy

What are the treatments?

The form of treatment depends on a few things:

  • Does the woman have symptoms?
  • Does she want to have a child?
  • How large are the fibroids?
  • How old is the woman?

Treatment choices include:

  • Pain medicines
  • Shrinking the fibroids without surgery
    • by decreasing the blood flow to them (uterine artery embolization)
    • by destroying the fibroids with heat (magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound)
  • Surgery to take out the fibroids without taking out the womb (myomectomy)
  • Surgery to take out the womb (hysterectomy). Hysterectomy might be considered if::
    • You don't want any more children AND you are in a lot of pain from your fibroids
    • Your periods are so heavy that you have a very low blood count (anemia)

Talk to your doctor about treatments that are available.

Do fibroids cause cancer?

Fibroids almost never develop into a muscle type of cancer. Having fibroids does not increase your risk for getting other kinds of cancer in the womb.

Do they ever go away?

Fibroids usually stop growing or shrink after menopause ("the change of life").

Click on the links below to learn more. 

Sources

US Food and Drug Administration, Uterine Fibroids Brochure   http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/ucm118522.htm

National Women's Health Information Center/US Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health  http://www.4woman.gov/faq/fibroids.htm#6 

National Institute of Child Health & Human Developmenthttp://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/Uterine_Fibroids.cfm 

This information is for education only. It is not medical advice. Please ask your doctor for advice about changes that may affect your health.

Reviewed by:

Richard L. Lane MD., Managing Medical Director, KY

Lynette Cooper RN CMCN  Legal Specialist Sr