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Uterine fibroids are tumors, or growths, made up of muscle and other tissues that grow in the uterus. They may develop in the uterine wall, inside the lining of the uterus, or outside of the uterus. They occur in 20-25% of women of childbearing age, and up to 80% of women will suffer from fibroids at some point in their lives. A single fibroid may develop or several may develop in groups. Fibroids range in size from less than one inch to larger than the size of a grapefruit. Other names for fibroids are uterine leiomyomata, fibromyomas, leiomyomas, and myomas.
Many women with fibroids do not experience any symptoms and are unaware that they have fibroids. However, about one in four women may have heavy bleeding, pain, and urinary problems that require treatment. Fibroids are almost always benign (not harmful) and very rarely develop into cancer. Fewer than 0.1% of fibroid cases become cancerous. Other complications may include infertility, pregnancy problems, and anemia.
Any woman can develop fibroids; they are most common among African American women. The cause is unknown and there are no known ways to prevent them.
Fibroids are classified based on their location in the uterus and can be submucosal, intramural, subserosal, and pedunculated. Symptomatic fibroids can be treated with medications, surgeries, and other procedures. The most invasive surgery available, called a hysterectomy, completely removes the uterus and is the only treatment that completely prevents fibroids from growing back. One-third of hysterectomies in the United States are due to uterine fibroids.
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Watch as Obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Evelyn Minaya gives the definition of uterine fibroids.