Commonly referred to as pelvic pain, the severity of pain and cramping in your lower abdomen can range from mild and sporadic to severe and constant. The pain may come on during sexual intercourse, a bowel movement, exercise, or your period. A number of things can contribute to pelvic pain, and one of them is uterine fibroids.
Fibroids are tumors that grow in your uterus, but don’t be alarmed by the term “tumor.” The vast majority of fibroids are benign, or noncancerous — less than one in 1,000 causes cancer.
Uterine fibroids are a common condition among women of childbearing age. In fact, one study found that by age 50, 70-80% percent of women have had fibroids. While the condition is common, fibroid symptoms are not present in all women who have them.
Fibroids are rare in women under 20 and more common in women of African descent. While researchers don’t know exactly what causes fibroids, they do suspect that fibroids may run in families and are affected by hormonal levels.
Some fibroids grow inside the uterine wall, some grow inside the uterine cavity, and others grow outside the uterus. Some women develop only small fibroids or only one fibroid, while others develop fibroids that are so large they distort the size of the uterus and push against the rib cage.
Often, fibroids are small and don’t cause any symptoms. But when they do, their size and location determine the specific type of pain or symptom.
In addition to pelvic pain, fibroids may also cause:
If you have uterine fibroids, you may also feel the need to urinate more frequently than normal.
Since fibroids don’t cause symptoms, they’re often found during a pelvic exam during your annual well-woman visit. The doctor can feel abnormal shapes in your uterus and determine the size of the fibroids. If you report symptoms or your doctor wants to confirm a diagnosis of fibroids, they may order imaging tests such as an ultrasound, MRI, CT scan, or X-ray.
If you have fibroids, the specialists at The Association for Women’s Health Care work with you to develop an effective, personalized treatment plan. In some cases, that may involve a watch-and-wait strategy to see if your fibroids shrink or go away on their own. If they don’t, nonsurgical fibroid treatment options include:
Minimally invasive or surgical treatments include:
A hysterectomy and endometrial ablation are not options for women who want to have children.
If you’re experiencing pelvic pain or want to learn more about uterine fibroids, call The Association for Women’s Health Care with offices in Chicago and Northbrook, Illinois, or make an appointment online.