Fibroids : A non-cancerous uterine development


Uterine fibroids, a kind of non-cancerous uterine development, are frequent throughout the childbearing years. Uterine fibroids, also known as leiomyomas or myomas, do not enhance the risk of uterine cancer and hardly ever turn into the disease.

Fibroids can be small enough to be invisible to the naked eye or big enough to stretch and expand the uterus. Fibroids can be isolated or spread out. In extreme cases, many fibroids may lead to weight gain and uterine enlargement to the point where it contacts the rib cage.

Uterine fibroids are a common condition in women. However, because uterine fibroids frequently do not manifest any symptoms, you might not be aware that you have them. Inadvertent fibroids may be found by your doctor when doing a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound.


Uterine fibroids have an unknown aetiology, however, studies and clinical experience indicate the following factors:

Genetic alterations. Numerous fibroids have gene mutations that are not typical of uterine muscle cells in general.

Hormones. The two hormones estrogen and progesterone, which encourage the uterine lining to form throughout each menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy, also appear to encourage the growth of fibroids.

The amount of oestrogen and progesterone receptors in fibroids is greater than in normal uterine muscle cells. Fibroids usually shrink after menopause as hormone synthesis decreases.

Additional drivers of growth. Inhibitors of tissue maintenance, such as insulin-like growth factors, may influence the formation of fibroid tumours.

Cellular extranet (ECM). ECM is the substance that binds cells together, just like mortar holds bricks together. Although studies and clinical experience indicate that the number of fibroids is increasing and making them fibrous, doctors do not yet know what causes uterine fibroids. Additionally, the ECM changes cell biology and stores chemicals that promote growth.

According to medical experts, uterine fibroids develop from a stem cell in the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus (myometrium). A single cell that has undergone several divisions develops into a solid, rubbery mass that is distinct from the tissue around it.

The growth of uterine fibroids can be gradual, rapid, or constant in size. Their growth patterns are variable. Some fibroids have growth spikes, while others may naturally contract.

After delivery, when the uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size, many fibroids that were present throughout pregnancy diminish or vanish.

How to check if you have Fibroids?

See a doctor if you have:

  • Pelvic discomfort that persists
  • Very lengthy, painful, or heavy periods
  • Bleeding between cycles or spotting
  • Inability to fully empty your bladder
  • Low red blood cell count without apparent cause (anaemia)

If you have extreme vaginal bleeding or rapid onset of intense pelvic discomfort, seek immediate medical attention.

Risk Factors

Other than being a woman of reproductive age, there are not many established risk factors for uterine fibroids. There are a number of variables that might affect fibroid development, such as:

Race. Although fibroids are a possibility for all women of reproductive age, black women are more likely than women of other ethnic groups to have them. Additionally, black women are more likely to experience more severe symptoms, have more or bigger fibroids, and experience their symptoms at a younger age.

Heredity. If your mother or sister had fibroids, you are more likely to have them.

Other factors. Early menstruation, obesity, vitamin D insufficiency, a diet strong in red meat and deficient in green vegetables, fruit, and dairy, and alcohol use, notably beer, appear to be risk factors. to make you more likely to get fibroids.


Numerous fibroids-afflicted ladies have no symptoms at all. The number, size, and location of fibroids in those who have them might influence symptoms.

The most typical uterine fibroids symptoms and indicators in women who experience them are as follows:

  • Extreme menstrual bleeding
  • Menstrual periods that last more than a week
  • Pelvic pressure or discomfort
  • Often urinating
  • Bladder emptying challenges
  • Constipation
  • Leg or back discomfort

Rarely, when a fibroid outgrows its blood supply and starts to die, it can produce severe discomfort.

The fundamental criterion for classifying fibroids is location. Intramural fibroids develop inside the uterine wall's musculature. Submucosal fibroids intrude into the uterine cavity. Subserosal fibroids protrude from the uterus's wall.


There is little scientific data on how to avoid fibroid tumours, despite the fact that experts are still investigating their causes. Although it may not be feasible to prevent uterine fibroids, only a tiny proportion of these tumours need to be treated.

However, you may be able to lower your chance of developing fibroid by adopting good lifestyle habits, such as consuming fruits and vegetables and keeping a healthy weight.

Additionally, some data points to a possible link between utilising hormonal contraceptives and a decreased incidence of fibroids.


There are several treatment options for uterine fibroid removal; there is no one ideal method. If you suffer symptoms, talk to your doctor about possible symptom treatments.

Attentive waiting

Many women with uterine fibroids either do not have any symptoms at all or just have minor ones that they can tolerate. Watchful waiting could be the best course of action for you if that is the situation.

Fibroids do not cause cancer. They hardly ever affect pregnancies. As the levels of reproductive hormones decline after menopause, they often rise slowly or not at all.


Medication that specifically targets the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle is used to treat the signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids, such as excessive monthly flow and pelvic pain. Although they might make fibroids smaller, they do not get rid of them. Medications consist of:

A hormone that releases gonadotropins: Agonists of (GnRH). GnRH agonist medications work to treat fibroids by preventing the synthesis of oestrogen and progesterone, which temporarily mimics menopause. Menstruation ceases as a consequence, fibroids decrease, and anaemia frequently gets better.

GnRH agonists include leuprolide (Lupron Depot, Eligard, and other brands), goserelin (Zoladex), and triptorelin (Trelstar, Triptodur Kit).

When utilising GnRH agonists, a lot of women get severe hot flashes. GnRH agonists are normally taken for no more than three to six months since long-term usage might result in bone loss and symptoms returning after the medicine is stopped.

Before a scheduled operation or to assist you to enter menopause, your doctor may prescribe a GnRH agonist to reduce the size of your fibroids.

A device that releases progesterone intrauterine (IUD). Heavy bleeding brought on by a progestin-releasing IUD can relieve fibroid tissue. An IUD that releases progesterone only treats symptoms; it does not shrink or get rid of fibroids. Additionally, it stops women from becoming pregnant.

Acid tranexamic (Lysteda, Cyklokapron). To reduce painful menstrual cycles, people use this non-hormonal medicine. Only days with significant bleeding are taken.

Different medicines. Other drugs may be suggested by your doctor. For instance, while oral contraceptives can help regulate menstrual flow, they have little effect on fibroid growth.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), which are not hormonal pharmaceuticals, may be useful in reducing fibroids-related discomfort, but they have no effect on fibroids' tendency to haemorrhage. If you have excessive monthly bleeding and anaemia, your doctor can also advise you to take vitamins and iron.

Non-invasive method

Focused ultrasound surgery (FUS) with MRI guidance is:

  • A non-invasive, outpatient procedure that does not involve an incision and keeps your uterus intact for the treatment of uterine fibroids.
  • Therapy is carried out when you are inside an MRI scanner that has a high-energy ultrasound transducer. Your doctor can precisely locate uterine fibroids thanks to the photos. The ultrasonic transducer concentrates sound waves (sonications) into the fibroid at the chosen site, where they cause tiny patches of fibroid tissue to heat up and be destroyed.
  • Researchers are learning more about the long-term usefulness and safety of newer technology. The evidence thus far gathered indicates that FUS for uterine fibroids is both secure and efficient.

Uterine fibroids can be eliminated using certain methods without having to be surgically removed. They consist of:

Stenting of the uterine artery. Small particles (embolic agents) are injected into the uterine arteries, blocking the flow of blood to the fibroids, which causes them to contract and eventually die.

This method has the potential to reduce fibroids and relieve the problems they bring on. If your ovaries or other organs' blood flow is disturbed, complications might result. Research reveals that transfusion risk is significantly decreased, and consequences are comparable to those seen with surgical fibroid therapies.

Ablation with radiofrequency. Radiofrequency radiation is used in this therapy to eliminate uterine fibroids and constrict the blood arteries that feed them. During laparoscopic or transcervical surgery, this can be done. The fibroids are frozen using a similar method called cryo myolysis.

Your doctor creates two tiny abdominal incisions for laparoscopic radiofrequency ablation (Acessa), also known as Lap-RFA, in order to implant a thin viewing device (laparoscope) with a camera at the tip. Your doctor finds the fibroids that need to be treated using a laparoscopic camera and a laparoscopic ultrasound instrument.

Your doctor locates a fibroid and inserts many tiny needles into it using a specialist tool. The fibroid tissue is heated by the needles and is therefore destroyed. Immediately after being destroyed, a fibroid undergoes a consistency shift, going from being hard like a golf ball to being soft like a marshmallow. The fibroid continues to diminish over the next three to twelve months, alleviating discomfort.

Doctors avoid piercing the uterine tissue because they use Lap-RFA as a less intrusive option for myomectomy and hysterectomy. The majority of women who have surgery resume their usual activities after healing for 5 to 7 days.

The transcervical (through the cervix) radiofrequency ablation technique (Sonata) also employs ultrasound guidance to detect fibroids.

Robotic or laparoscopic myomectomy. A myomectomy involves the removal of the fibroids by your doctor while the uterus remains in situ.

You and your doctor may decide on a laparoscopic or robotic operation if there are only a few fibroids, which employs thin devices introduced via tiny incisions in your belly to remove the fibroids from your uterus.

Larger fibroids can be fragmented (morcellated), which can be accomplished inside a surgical bag, or extended through smaller incisions.

To remove the fibroids, make one incision.

Your doctor can view your abdomen on a monitor using a device with a tiny camera on it. Robotic myomectomy allows for greater accuracy, adaptability, and agility than is feasible with certain conventional treatments since it offers your surgeon a magnified, 3D picture of your uterus.

Gynaecological myomectomy. If the fibroids are only present inside the uterus, this surgery can be a possibility (submucosal). Your surgeon will insert tools into your uterus through your vagina and cervix to access and remove fibroids.

Ablation of the endometrium. This procedure, carried out with a specialised tool put into your uterus, damages the lining of your uterus with heat, microwave energy, hot water, or electric current, either terminating menstruation or lessening the flow.

Endometrial ablation is typically useful for halting irrational bleeding. Fibroids that extend past the uterus' internal lining cannot be removed during hysteroscopy for endometrial ablation, even if submucosal fibroids may.

After endometrial ablation, women are unlikely to become pregnant, but birth control is necessary to stop a pregnancy from growing in a fallopian tube (ectopic pregnancy).

Any operation that does not remove the uterus has the possibility of additional fibroids developing and manifesting symptoms.

Conventional surgical techniques

Traditional surgical treatments have the following alternatives:

Myomectomy of the abdomen. Your doctor may do an open abdominal surgical treatment to remove the fibroids if you have numerous, extremely big, or very deep fibroids.

When advised that a hysterectomy is their sole option, many women choose to  opt for an abdominal myomectomy. However, scarring from surgery may impair fertility in the future.

Hysterectomy. This procedure eliminates the uterus. This is still the sole effective therapy for uterine fibroids.

A hysterectomy prevents a woman from becoming pregnant. Menopause and the decision to undergo hormone replacement therapy are brought on by surgery if you also choose to have your ovaries removed. Most uterine fibroid patients may decide to keep their ovaries.

Morcellation during the excision of a fibroid

If a previously undetected malignant tumour is morcellated during myomectomy, there may be an increased risk of cancer spreading. Morcellation is the process of cutting fibroids into smaller pieces. Several strategies exist to lessen that danger, including assessing risk factors prior to surgery, morcellating the fibroid in a bag, or growing the fibroid.

However, younger, premenopausal women often have a lower chance of undiscovered cancer than older women. All myomectomies carry the danger of cutting into an undiagnosed tumour.

Additionally, the likelihood of spreading an unidentified malignancy in a fibroid after a minimally invasive technique is lower than the likelihood of problems during open surgery. Before beginning therapy, talk to your doctor about any specific hazards you may face if morcellation is recommended.

Most women who have fibroids removed by myomectomy or hysterectomy are advised against using a power morcellator. Older ladies going through or starting menopause have a higher chance of developing cancer, and women who are not worried about preserving their fertility have more alternatives for treating fibroids.

Hysterectomy with endometrial ablation will prevent you from becoming pregnant in the future if you are attempting to conceive or think you might want to have kids. Additionally, if you are looking to maximise future fertility, radiofrequency ablation and uterine artery embolization might not be the greatest choices.

If you wish to keep your capacity to get pregnant, have a thorough talk with your doctor about the advantages and disadvantages of these treatments. If you are actively attempting to get pregnant, a thorough fertility screening is advised before choosing a treatment strategy for fibroids.

If myomectomy is recommended for fibroid therapy and you wish to maintain your fertility, it is usually the preferred method of therapy. However, each treatment has advantages and disadvantages. Talk about them with your doctor.

Developing additional fibroids is a danger

With the exception of hysterectomy, all surgical operations include the risk of small tumours called "seedlings" that may develop over time and manifest symptoms that call for medical attention. The recurrence rate is a common name for this. Additionally, new fibroids can form, which could or might not need treatment.

A few of the fibroids may be treated by certain methods, such as MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery (FUS), radiofrequency ablation, or laparoscopic or robotic myomectomy.

Complications of Fibroids

Even though uterine fibroids are often not harmful, they can be uncomfortable and can sometimes result in issues, such as a decline in red blood cells (anaemia), which results in exhaustion due to significant blood loss. Rarely does blood loss necessitate a transfusion.

Obstetrics and fibroids

Usually, fibroids do not prevent women from becoming pregnant. It is possible that fibroids, particularly submucosal ones, might lead to infertility or miscarriage.

The risk of certain pregnancy problems, such as placental abruption, foetal growth restriction, and premature birth, may also increase with fibroids.

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Page last reviewed: Mar 15, 2023

Next review due: Mar 15, 2025

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