When it comes to almost any medical condition, there’s a lot of fact and fiction to sort through, especially on the internet. In our efforts to partner with our patients here in Las Vegas and help them better understand their health, we want to help cut through the clutter.
In this informational piece, we debunk some of the common myths surrounding uterine fibroids, as well as confirm some of the truths. For a quick and educational primer on your reproductive health, read on.
All women have uterine fibroids
When it comes to this statement, we’re going to label it an exaggeration rather than a myth. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that most American women will develop uterine fibroids at some point during their reproductive years. The trouble with nailing down an exact figure is that many women who have uterine fibroids are unaware of their existence.
Uterine fibroids range in size from that of a kernel of rice up to a large orange. Those small kernel-sized fibroids don’t make their presence known nearly as much as the larger masses do. So, while we have a good idea about the number of women who seek treatment for uterine fibroids, we can only estimate the number who don’t.
Uterine fibroids are cancerous tumors
This statement is, thankfully, false. An overwhelming majority of uterine fibroids are noncancerous, or benign, growths. In rare cases -- less than one in 1,000 -- a cancerous fibroid may develop, but it’s unrelated to common uterine fibroids.
In fact, most studies show that the presence of uterine fibroids doesn’t increase your chances of cancer at all, particularly uterine cancer.
Uterine fibroids are caused by hormone imbalances
This statement is both true and false. The bottom line is that researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact cause of uterine fibroids. What medical studies have uncovered are strong links to genetics and hormones.
Uterine fibroids are found to contain more estrogen and progesterone than normal uterine tissue, which means they are more receptive to these hormones. In addition, uterine fibroids often shrink after you go through menopause, when your hormone levels drop precipitously.
Armed with this evidence, it’s safe to say that your hormones can, in fact, play a role in the development of uterine fibroids.
Certain races are more prone to uterine fibroids
Studies have found this to be true. One study by the NIH showed that 70% of whites and 80% of African Americans had fibroids by the age of 50.
The same study reported that white women and African American women under the age of 35 have the same fibroid growth rate. But, as they age, the growth rates drop off for white women, but not for African Americans. The reason for this disparity has yet to be uncovered.
Uterine fibroids can’t be treated
False. While most uterine fibroids don’t need to be treated, we can treat those that cause problems like infertility, heavy bleeding, and discomfort. In fact, we have a number of treatment options that range in degrees of invasiveness. Sometimes a simple oral contraceptive can help relieve the symptoms caused by your uterine fibroids, especially heavy bleeding.
If pregnancy is your goal, we can take a look at other methods to alleviate your symptoms, such as laparoscopic techniques to remove the fibroid(s).
In extreme cases, we can remove your uterus entirely, effectively putting an end to any problems related to uterine fibroids.
The only way to know for sure which treatment is right for you is to come in for a comprehensive examination. During this exam, we’ll use advanced imaging to take a closer look at the problem and discuss the many different options to find one that best matches your goals.
If you still have any questions about uterine fibroids, feel free to call Dr. Darin Swainston, MD, FACOG, or schedule an appointment online using the easy booking tool.