Myths and Misconceptions About Uterine Fibroids
Jul 25, 2017 - 10:10:59 AM
About 70% of white women and 80% of African-American women have fibroids – non-cancerous tumors growing within the wall of the uterus – by the time they reach age 50, according to the National Institutes of Health. This important public health concern leads to more than $2 billion in direct health care costs each year.
“Women trying to understand their risk of developing fibroids – and their options if they’re diagnosed – are often thwarted by misinformation circulating about this potentially confusing condition,” explains Dr. Gaither, a double board-certified physician in OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine who holds a master’s degree in public health. “It’s crucial to set the record straight about fibroid facts versus fiction.”
Fibroid facts vs. fiction
What are some of the most common myths about fibroids? Dr. Gaither details 5 common myths and offers the truths for each.
Myth: All women with fibroids will experience symptoms.
Fact: Between 50% and 80% of women with fibroids won’t have any symptoms, such as pain or heavy menstrual bleeding. “Many women with fibroids don’t even know they have the condition,” she says.
Myth: Fibroid tumors will become cancerous.
Fact: This almost never happens. Uterine fibroids, which are known medically as leiomyomas, are nearly always benign, with far less than 1% turning malignant. “Having fibroids also doesn’t increase a woman’s chance of developing reproductive system cancers,” Dr. Gaither notes.
Myth: Untreated fibroids will continue to grow.
Fact: Since fibroid growth is fueled by estrogen, they grow and shrink in alignment with a woman’s hormone levels throughout her life. In pregnancy, existing fibroids may grow and new ones may form as estrogen levels heighten. On the flip side, fibroids usually shrink after menopause as the ovaries cease making estrogen.
Myth: Ultrasound is the best imaging tool to diagnose fibroids.
Fact: Pelvic ultrasound is indeed a common method of revealing fibroid growth, but doesn’t work as well as a pelvic MRI scan, Dr. Gaither says. “Ultrasound often underestimates the number, size and location of a woman’s fibroids,” she adds.
Myth: Women with fibroids must seek medical treatment.
Fact: If fibroids don’t cause any symptoms, which can also include pelvic pressure and frequent urination, then treatment isn’t necessary, Dr. Gaither says. “The one exception would be if the fibroids, while asymptomatic, are causing repeat miscarriages or infertility,” she says.
How are uterine fibroids treated?
When treatment for fibroids is deemed necessary – typically because symptoms have been pervasive and problematic – a variety of approaches may be taken. These include:
Kecia Gaither, MD, a perinatal consultant and women’s health expert, is a double board-certified physician in OB/GYN and Maternal-Fetal Medicine in New York City. www.keciagaither.com