Fibroids, also called myomas, are non-cancerous growths that form in or on the uterus. They are quite common, and often cause no symptoms or complications. In some women, however, they can cause serious discomfort and even infertility.
Fibroids can be microscopic or they can grow to the size of a grapefruit. The exact cause is unknown, though estrogen promotes their growth. Experts estimate that 20-30 percent of women over 30 have fibroids, and the number jumps to 50-75 percent for African American women. In most women, they cause no problems, especially if they form after the woman has ceased having children. Others may experience serious discomfort or fertility problems, especially if they are inside the uterine cavity. Fibroids can warrant hysterectomy (complete removal of one or both ovaries), but there are other surgical options that don’t impair fertility.
Fibroids can cause infertility in several ways. If the surface of the uterus is abnormal, a fertilized egg may not be able to cling to the wall. A fibroid in the fallopian tube can block the passage of sperm or the fertilized egg. Large fibroids can block the growth of the fetus and cause miscarriage.
Fibroids can occasionally become cancerous; this usually occurs only after menopause.