This is typically one of the first questions that women look for when diagnosed with uterine fibroids. You want to know how fast they grow, which helps you understand how the growth rate will impact your life. Here's what you need to know about fibroid growth, why fibroid size matters, and what you can do to eliminate painful fibroid symptoms.
Let’s start with some basics. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop in or on the uterus. They can grow individually or in multiples, and their location often determines which symptoms are experienced, if any.
Some of the symptoms you could experience are as follows:
- Heavy and prolonged menstruation between or during your periods
- Anemia, which can lead to fatigue
- Pain during intercourse
- Frequent urination
- Constipation and bloating
- Pain in your pelvis or lower back
- Increased menstrual cramping
- Stomach swelling
Uterine fibroids range from as small as a pea to larger than a melon. Although not usually considered dangerous, they can sometimes harm surrounding organs, like the bladder or bowel, and impact fertility.
How Are Fibroids Diagnosed?
Your doctor may ask you about your signs and symptoms and perform a pelvic exam, which examines the abdomen and pelvis to look for growth.
If your uterus is enlarged or has an irregular shape, your doctor may suspect fibroids and will order a pelvic ultrasound to confirm a diagnosis.
Common symptoms can also occur when your uterine wall has fibroid tissue. Another thing that is accompanied by developing fibroids is menstrual cramps, frequent urination, and hot flashes.
Many women with uterine fibroids experience no signs or symptoms or only mildly annoying signs and symptoms that they can live with. Watchful waiting could be the best option if that's the case for you.
Fibroids aren't cancerous, and they rarely interfere with pregnancy. They usually grow slowly — or not at all — and tend to shrink after menopause, when levels of reproductive hormones drop.
8 Facts about Uterine Fibroids.
- Having Fibroids are Common
It is noted that 40-80% of women develop fibroids, but the exact prevalence is unknown since some women don't experience symptoms.
- There are several types of uterine fibroids.
You may hear it referenced as Leiomyomas, Myomas, Uterine myomas, or Fibromas. They are classified by their location in or near the uterine wall.
- Fibroids occur in different sizes and shapes
Some multiple fibroids and sizes can grow in the uterine wall. They can truly range from very large fibroids to very small fibroids. They have been known to grow rapidly in some women.
- Symptoms may or may not occur
Just like the sizes of fibroids, there can be very minimal or severe symptoms. Having larger fibroids would mean you may have worse symptoms, including severe pain. On the other side of the spectrum, not all fibroids cause symptoms.
- Diagnostic studies are helpful
It is important to check in with your doctor and get the right testing done to find the appropriate treatments for yourself. An ultrasound is the first thing you should consider when you visit your doctor. With this information, you can determine how many fibroids are in your uterus, as well as their size.
Your doctor will likely start with a pelvic examination. You should consider bringing up magnetic resonance imaging and radiofrequency ablation.
- The cause of fibroids is unknown
Experts still don't know how fibroids grow, but some factors can make you more susceptible. Those factors are:
- Family history of fibroids
- Early menarche (onset of menstruation)
- A diet that includes a high amount of red meat and few green vegetables
- Not having children
- Alcohol use
While fibroids develop from the muscular tissue of your uterus, they have a very different genetic profile than normal uterine muscle tissue and contain more estrogen and progesterone receptors. These two hormones stimulate your uterine lining to prepare for pregnancy during your menstrual cycle each month and seem to promote uterine fibroid growth.
Estrogen may play a significant role in fibroid development, as they contain estrogen receptors. Fibroids also make estrogen, which can create a forward cycle of growth.
- Fibroids grow Inconsistently
Another thing to know is that they are inconsistent with their growth. Large fibroids can cause an enlarged uterus. They can also remain the same size for years, or go away independently.
- A Hysterectomy isn't the only way
There are other solutions than getting a hysterectomy. Understanding that estrogen production may be a large influence of their growth provides a method to target fibroids. Doctors may recommend using medications to manipulate your hormones, and doing this can help you control the pain, menstrual periods, and heavy bleeding.
Another treatment option is to remove fibroids with surgery. There may be several fibroids lining your uterine cavity, meaning you'll want them removed, especially if you are having trouble getting pregnant.
How to Treat Fibroids.
Please note any treatment approaches mentioned are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and have not been evaluated by the FDA.
One thing to note is that not every woman needs to treat fibroids, and you would only need to treat them if you are experiencing extreme symptomatic uterine fibroids.
These are the symptoms that you should watch out for; when you are developing fibroids, it can cause your ovarian function to be compromised. Large fibroids block the blood flow to your uterus, which can result in painful symptoms.
One way to treat fibroids is with medication. You can take anti-inflammatories for pain, iron, and vitamins to help with the heavy bleeding, birth control pills, antifibrinolytic medications, and gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogs.
However, utilizing a functional medicine approach and understanding that estrogen production may be a major underlying factor in fibroid development. Focusing on ways to improve your hormone balance like eating organic, nourishing foods, physical exercise, building stress resilience, and reducing visceral adiposity can help significantly. Resolving digestive issues of increased intestinal permeability and dysbiosis, correcting detoxification pathways, and providing supplements can be done alongside your functional medicine physician.
For some women, you can opt for surgical treatment of fibroids. This may include hysterectomy or a uterine ablation. It, again, is based on your pain and how many fibroids grow in your uterus. Surgical removal is very common, especially if you are experiencing pain. Getting your fibroids treated is important for your health. Make sure you talk to your doctor about all the risk factors and treatment options.
What is Uterine Artery Embolization?
A uterine artery embolization is a procedure in which an interventional radiologist redistributes blood supply back to the uterine body. This is a common procedure that is conducted for people with uterine fibroids.
What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat uterine fibroid tumors, which can cause heavy menstrual bleeding, pain, and pressure on the bladder or bowel. It uses a form of real-time x-ray called fluoroscopy to guide the delivery of embolic agents to the uterus and fibroids. These agents block the arteries that provide blood to the fibroids and cause them to shrink. Studies have shown that nearly 90 percent of women who undergo UFE experience significant or complete resolution of their fibroid-related symptoms.
What's the Risk of Developing New Fibroids?
For all procedures except hysterectomy, seedlings — tiny tumors your doctor doesn't detect during surgery — could eventually grow and cause symptoms that warrant treatment. This is often termed the recurrence rate. New fibroids, which may or may not require treatment, also can develop. This is also why working with your functional physician and nutritionist may help in addressing root causes.
Also, some procedures — such as laparoscopic or robotic myomectomy, radiofrequency ablation, or MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery — may only treat some of the fibroids present at the treatment time.
Work with Index Health.
Get a board-certified doctor, a nutritionist, and a patient manager who will all work together with you to alleviate your symptoms and take preventative measures.
Personalized functional medicine plans include the implementation of lifestyle habits, nutrition guidelines, types of movement, and occasionally dietary supplements if needed.
Key Takeaways for Fibroids.
Don't forget that women's health is vitally important, and you don't need to be in constant pain. Female hormones can create drastically different symptom severities, which is even more prominent for premenopausal women. Minimize or reduce growth by contacting your doctor and getting the right treatments. Remember that fibroids can interfere with the fertility process if you are planning to have children.