What are uterine fibroids?
Fibroids are benign tumors that can grow anywhere in the uterus. These balls of fibrous tissue develop when a single cell of the muscle of the uterus goes awry and clones itself multiple times. Women can develop one or multiple fibroids that can grow into the uterine cavity, on the uterine wall, and just under the outside of the uterus. Some fibroids remain tiny, while others can grow to the size of a grapefruit or watermelon. Fibroid symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions that affect women’s reproductive organs—if symptoms are present at all. Doctors say between 70 and 80 percent of women in their late twenties, thirties, and forties have fibroids, but only 25 to 30 percent are symptomatic. If you notice any of the following signs, physicians recommend requesting an appointment to determine if fibroids could be the cause.
Excessive menstrual bleeding
The most common fibroid symptoms include heavier than normal menstruation that lasts longer than usual, typically seven days or more. Serdar Bulun, MD, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and obstetrician-gynecologist-in-chief at Prentice Women’s Hospital-Northwestern Memorial Hospital says this excess uterine bleeding is determined by how heavy bleeding is each day of menstruation and how long menses lasts. “The typical woman with a fibroid uterus may have major flow during her menses for more than four or five days and go through excessive numbers of tampons or pads,” says Dr. Bulun. While fibroids can grow anywhere in the uterus, those that grow closer to the uterine cavity are believed to cause heavier menstruation. “The uterine cavity is lined with tissue you shed every month for a normal menstrual period. When that fibroid grows either right next to it or indents the cavity, it likely increases the amount of tissue that you’re going to have to shed,” says Shannon Laughlin-Tommaso, MD, consultant and assistant professor at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Here are the secrets you should be disclosing to your gynecologist.