NEWS | September 10, 2019

Fibroid Q&A with UC Davis Health OB/GYN

Clara Paik answers questions about this common problem

(SACRAMENTO)

About 25% to 50% of women in the U.S. have at least one fibroid during their lifetime. While most will never experience symptoms, fibroids can be painful, cause symptoms such as heavy menstrual periods, and sometimes require surgery.

Clara Paik Clara Paik

To help us understand this common gynecologic issue, we turned to Clara Paik, vice chair and director of Gynecology for the UC Davis Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

What are fibroids, and how common are they?

Uterine fibroids are very common. In fact, they are one of the most common gynecologic problems we see in our clinic. They are benign smooth muscle tumors arising from the uterus. Fibroids are like balls of smooth muscle tissue that can grow anywhere within the uterine muscle. Most of the time they cause no problems, but sometimes they can cause abnormal bleeding, such as heavy periods, if they grow into the uterine cavity. If they grow outside the uterus, a woman might notice abdominal bloating, pressure, increased urination, or the feeling that something is growing inside her abdomen.

At what age do women develop fibroids?

We tend to see fibroids in women primarily in their 40s, but fibroids can be seen at any age typically after age 30.

How are fibroids diagnosed?

Fibroids can be found by a physician during a pelvic exam if they are large enough to be detected. They are most often diagnosed during medical imaging such as an ultrasound. Sometimes fibroids are incidentally discovered during imaging for another problem, or a clinician may order an ultrasound if fibroids are suspected based on the patient’s symptoms.

What are the treatment options for fibroids?

Treatment depends on where the fibroid grows. If it grows into the uterine cavity, it can cause heavy menstrual bleeding, which can be treated in a variety of ways. We don’t currently have a medical therapy to make a fibroid shrink or go away long term. If the fibroid doesn’t cause problems, we can actively monitor it. If the fibroid grows on the outside of the uterine cavity and causes a lot of abdominal symptoms, it can be surgically removed.

Can a woman have fibroids and still have children?

In general, fibroids do not cause infertility. In some women, fibroids may cause recurrent miscarriage or make conception more difficult, especially if the fibroids are growing inside the uterine cavity.

Can fibroids turn into cancer?

No, fibroids don’t turn into cancer. But it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis, because some gynecologic cancers have similar symptoms to fibroids.