Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb (uterus).
The growths are made up of muscle and fibrous tissue and vary in size. They're sometimes known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas.
Many women are unaware they have fibroids because they don't have any symptoms. Women who do havesymptoms (around one in three) may experience:
In rare cases, further complications caused by fibroids can affect pregnancy or cause infertility .
As fibroids don't often cause symptoms, they're sometimes diagnosed by chance during a routine gynaecological examination, test or scan.
However, see your GP if you have persistent symptoms of fibroids so they can investigate possible causes.
If your GP thinks you may have fibroids, they'll usually refer you for an ultrasound scan to confirm the diagnosis.
However,they're linked to the hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen is the female reproductive hormone produced by the ovaries (the female reproductive organs).
Fibroids usually develop during a woman's reproductive years (from around 16 to 50 years of age) when oestrogen levels are at their highest. They tend to shrink when oestrogen levels are low, such as after the menopause (when a woman's monthly periods stop).
Fibroids are common, with around 1 in 3 women developing them at somepoint in their life. They most often occur in women aged 30-50.
Fibroidsare thought to developmore frequentlyinwomen of African- Caribbean origin. It's also thought they occur more oftenin overweight or obese women becausebeing overweight increases the level of oestrogen in the body.
Women who've had children have a lower risk of developing fibroids, and the risk decreases further the more children you have.
Fibroids can grow anywhere in the womb and vary in size considerably. Somecan bethe size of a pea, whereas others can be the size of a melon.
The main types of fibroids are:
In some cases, subserosal or submucosal fibroidsare attached to the womb witha narrow stalk of tissue. These are known as pedunculated fibroids.
Treatment for fibroids isn't needed if they aren't causing symptoms. Over time, fibroids will often shrink and disappear without treatment, particularly after the menopause.
If you do have symptoms caused by fibroids, medication to help relieve the symptoms willusually be recommended first.
There are also medicationsavailable to help shrink fibroids. If these prove ineffective, surgery orother less invasive procedures may be recommended.
Read about the different types of fibroids and why they develop. Find out when to see your GP if you have fibroids and how they're treated.
Read about the scans and procedures that can be used to help diagnose fibroids, including an abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound scan, hysteroscopy and laparoscopy.
Read about the treatments for fibroids including medication for symptoms, medication to shrink fibroids, and the different types of surgical and non-surgical procedures.