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Uterine fibroids

Uterine fibroids are benign tumours that are made up of the muscle and connective tissue from the wall of the uterus (womb). Fibroids may grow as a single nodule or in clusters and may range in size from one millimetre to more than 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter. They may grow within the wall of the uterus or they may project into the interior cavity or toward the outer surface of the uterus. In rare cases, they may grow on stems projecting from the surface of the uterus.

What causes uterine fibroids?

The causes of fibroids are not known. Most fibroids occur in women of reproductive age, and according to some estimates, they are diagnosed in black women two to three times more frequently than in white women. They are seldom seen in young women who have not begun to menstruate, and they usually stabilise or go away in women after menopause.

Are fibroids cancer?

No. Fibroids are not associated with cancer. They are benign tumours that almost never develop into cancer.

Who is at risk of uterine fibroids?

No risk factors have been found for uterine fibroids other than being a female of reproductive age. However, some studies suggest obese women are at increased risk of having fibroids. (A person is considered obese if he or she has a BMI of 30 or over.)

What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?

Most fibroids do not cause any symptoms and do not require treatment other than regular observation by a doctor. Fibroids may be discovered during routine gynecological examinations or during antenatal care. Some women who have uterine fibroids may experience the following symptoms:

  • Excessive or painful bleeding during menstruation.
  • Bleeding between periods.
  • A feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen.
  • Frequent urination resulting from a fibroid that compresses the bladder.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Lower back pain.
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