Common Fibroid Myths Examined
Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumours that develop within the wall of the uterus (or womb). They may cause distortions or disturbances in the menstrual and reproductive function. The actual cause of fibroids is unknown. Although raised oestrogen levels are often associated with the increased growth of fibroids. Oestrogen is the female reproductive hormone produced by the ovaries. They tend to appear during a woman’s reproductive years and shrink at menopause.
Approximately 20 to 80% of women of reproductive age have fibroids big enough to cause symptoms. These symptoms commonly present themselves later in reproductive years with menstrual problems. The actual number of affected women is not known because only about a third of all women with fibroids have symptoms.
There have been a lot of myths about fibroids. We debunk some of the common myths.
Myth 1: Fibroids equal cancer
Fact: Fibroids are NOT cancerous and their presence does not cause one to later have uterine cancer. Only about 1% of all fibroids become cancerous.
Myth 2: Fibroids aren’t very common
Fact: Fibroids are common in women all over the world, being detectable clinically in about 20% of women over 30 years of age. Fibroids are more common in:
- Women who haven’t had children
- Obese women
- Black women
- Women whose relatives have fibroids
- Women older than 30
Myth 3: When you have fibroids, you will know
Fact: Most women in the reproductive age group have fibroids ranging from the size of a pea to about a watermelon. They are fed by female hormones, especially oestrogen. Small fibroids hardly cause symptoms. However, when they are large, symptoms may set in.
These symptoms include heavy menses, irregular vaginal bleeding between menses, pelvic pain, increased urination, inability to hold urine, constipation, defecation, rectal pain, abdominal cramps, abdominal swelling and early satiety.
To confirm a diagnosis of uterine fibroids, your doctor will examine you before carrying out tests. These tests may include an ultrasound scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a blood test (to check for iron-deficiency anaemia if heavy bleeding is caused by the tumour).
Myth 4: Fibroids will cause infertility
Fact: Fibroids can grow near the fallopian tubes and cervix, thereby blocking proper movement of sperm and egg through the uterus and tubes. Fibroids can also line the cavity of the uterus making it impossible for a pregnancy to properly implant in the uterus. However, pregnancy is possible even with the presence of fibroids.
Myth 5: When you have fibroids, surgery is the only option
Fact: Treatment for fibroids depends on a number of factors and the decision rests with you and your doctor. Your general health, number and size of fibroids, symptoms, and your desire for pregnancy are important in making a decision. Treatment is only recommended in women with symptoms affecting their quality of life.
Using drugs targeted at addressing symptoms is appropriate for patients with mild symptoms or small fibroids. These drugs include birth control pills, hormonal pills and painkillers.
Surgery is indicated for large fibroids and those causing severe symptoms. Your doctor will explain the surgical options available to you. Removal of fibroids with minimal access surgery is also available and may be desirable for people who would rather avoid surgery.