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Uterine fibroids

Uterine fibroids are benign tumours (not cancer) 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 more. Those women who’ve had children appear to be less likely to develop fibroids.

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:

How are uterine fibroids treated?

More and more, doctors are beginning to realise that uterine fibroids may not require any intervention or, at most, limited treatment. For a woman with uterine fibroids that are not causing symptoms, the best therapy may be watchful waiting. Some women never exhibit any symptoms nor have any problems associated with fibroids, in which case no treatment is necessary.

If a woman is experiencing anaemia caused by heavy, prolonged menstrual bleeding, moderate to severe pain, infertility or urinary tract or bowel problems, she will require treatment. Treatment options include:

Anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen and mefenamic acid may be recommended to be taken during the period to help ease heavy bleeding. These treatments help reduce the body’s production of prostaglandin which is linked to heavy periods.

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