Not all fibroids are symptomatic, but the complications they cause lead many women to seek fibroid treatment. Fibroids often cause severe menstrual cramping, unpredictable menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, weak bladder control, constipation, pain during intercourse, and issues related to infertility. For this reason, they are the leading cause of hysterectomy in the U.S., despite other effective treatment options.
Potential Causes of Fibroids
Uterine fibroids develop from the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus. It’s not uncommon for one woman to have multiple fibroids of differing sizes, and some women are more susceptible to fibroids than others. While it’s unknown exactly what causes fibroids, it’s believed that hormones and genetics play a role in their growth.
Fibroids grow under the influence of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, which increase during a woman’s reproductive years. These hormones are responsible for stimulating the development of the lining of the uterus each menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy. Evidence suggests that fibroid cells may be affected similarly.
Following menopause, when estrogen levels are low, fibroids shrink. While the underlying mechanisms for why this occurs aren’t fully understood, in simulated studies, fibroid size increased when exposed to hormone replacement therapy (specifically injectable estrogen replacement therapy and synthetic progesterones) and decreased when treated with anti-hormone therapy.
Clinical studies have revealed that hundreds of genes within fibroids are dysregulated, including those responsible for cell proliferation, which may be linked to uncontrolled cell growth. When compared to the normal myometrium, it was also discovered that fibroids contain heightened concentrations of both estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors.
Risk Factors Associated with Fibroids
Race – Evidence suggests that uterine fibroids have a disproportionate effect on African-American women. African-American women are more likely to have fibroids than other racial groups, are significantly more likely to experience severe or very severe symptoms. They also experience an earlier age of onset menstruation, another risk factor tied to uterine fibroids.
Genetics/Family History – Women who have a family history of uterine fibroids are three times more likely to develop uterine fibroids.
Diet and obesity – Women who are overweight are at greater risk for developing fibroids. Very heavy women are two to three times more likely to develop uterine fibroids. Dietary habits can also influence fibroid risk, specifically the intake of food additives and soybeans, which make a woman two and-a-half times more likely to develop fibroids.
Age – Most of the time fibroids grow in women of childbearing age, such as their 30s and 40s. They are more common among premenopausal women, who are three to five times likelier to have it than postmenopausal women. Fibroid risk is reduced with age.
Starting period at a young age – Women who started their period at a young age are more likely to have fibroids.
Diagnosis at a Fibroid Clinic
When fibroids are suspected, in order to confirm the diagnosis, a fibroid specialist or gynecologist usually orders a round of testing, also referred to as a fibroid screening.
A thorough fibroid screening includes:
- Sonogram: A sonogram is performed to confirm the presence of fibroids.
- MRI: An MRI allows the doctor to determine the number of fibroids present, the size of the fibroids, and the position of each fibroid.
- Pap Smear: A pap smear taken from the cervix is used to detect cell abnormalities.
- Diagnostic Biopsy: A diagnostic biopsy procedure is used to rule out cancer.
Treatment at a Fibroid Clinic
Located in New York City, our top-rated fibroid specialists are dedicated to providing you with comprehensive medical treatment options for fibroids. With longer, in-depth appointments, one-on-one patient education, and an interdisciplinary team of specialists all in house, we provide the expert, in-depth care you need with a patient experience you deserve.
Your Uterine Fibroid Specialist in NYC Has Answers
Founded on the principles that each patient is the true decision maker for their body and plays an active role in living and feeling better, our philosophy is to guide and empower each of our patients through doctor-led medical advice and technology.
Our unique combination of fibroid experts from different specialties work together to give patients more choices. Explore all of your treatment options with a fibroid expert who will evaluate your unique situation and educate you on all your options.