Fibroids are benign tumours, which grow from the smooth muscle in the wall of the uterus. They are not cancers. In very rare cases, a rapidly growing fibroid may become cancerous. This happens to one in a thousand pre-menopausal women, although the risk rises to one in a hundred for women diagnosed with rapidly growing fibroids after menopause.
Fibroids are very common. Some studies suggest that 30-50 percent of women actually have fibroids although most do not cause symptoms. Fibroids that remain small may never require treatment. Fibroids can cause heavy or irregular bleeding, pelvic pain or pressure related symptoms. Infertility and recurrent miscarriage can be associated with fibroids that significantly distort the shape and size of the uterus.
Since the female hormone oestrogen appears to encourage their growth, fibroids usually shrink at menopause and rarely cause problems after this time.
We do not understand why fibroids occur. Women whose close female relatives have fibroids are more likely to develop symptoms, suggesting that the cause is partly genetic.
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