Common myths about uterine fibroids: debunked

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With between 20%-70% of women developing uterine fibroids at some point in their lives, the subject has been around for a long time and as such, has developed many branches in different directions, not all of which are entirely (or even partially) true.

So, let’s get to debunking some common myths that commonly circulate concerning fibroids in women, toward a better understanding of which worries are real and which are simply for the birds.

Myth #1: Women with fibroids can’t get pregnant

For better or for worse, having fibroids is by no means (whatsoever!) an effective form of birth control. In fact, only 1-2% of women with fibroids experience infertility due to those fibroids. Size and even more important, location, are what cause fertility issues in connection with fibroids. If they block the path of sperm travel, making reaching an egg difficult, that’s a problem. Other fertility-related complications include if a fibroid has grown to the point of pushing on the uterus, changing its shape, not leaving enough space for an embryo to grow properly, or where circulation has been affected, when implantation of a fertilized egg becomes a challenge. Still, all these fertility fighting factors still add up to problems for only a tiny fraction of women with fibroids.

Myth #2: Fibroids can turn into cancer

Fibroids are benign growths by definition. They are NEVER cancerous. Leiomyosarcomas, however, are cancerous. A leiomyosarcoma can be harbored within a fibroid but is not a part of it. The chances of developing this cancer is extremely small, with statistics standing at only 6 per 1,000,000 in the United States. Still small as the chance is, this is certainly one more reason to make sure fibroids are monitored by competent medical professionals on a regular basis.

Myth #3: Hysterectomy is the only effective treatment option

Once upon a time, this would have been a true statement. Fortunately, those days are over and uterine fibroid treatment options abound, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Wait-and-watch is safer than it once was, thanks to advanced ultrasound equipment that is widely available to monitor fibroid development.
  • Medication doctors may recommend cover a wide range, including common pain relievers, hormonal pills otherwise used for birth control (to control bleeding), Intrauterine Device (IUD), to new-on-the-market GnRH agonists to shrink the fibroid(s).
  • Non-hysterectomy surgical options include myomectomy, (removal of the fibroids, only) endometrial ablation and uterine artery embolization.
  • Hysterectomy can still be the legitimate best choice for some women.

Myth #5: Fibroids develop only in women in their twenties and thirties, or Fibroids develop only in women in their thirties and forties.

In reality, combining these two myths would get us closer to the truth. Fibroids can develop at any point during a woman’s reproductive years, meaning from about 16-50, due to a higher production of estrogen. Developing fibroids following menopause is not unknown, either. This needn’t be a worry, as by age 50, most women will have developed at least one fibroid, but for many, they are small and minor enough to go by unnoticed.

Myth #6: Fibroids = Tumors = Polyps = Cysts

You and your siblings may look similar, have grown up in close proximity to one another and share other identifying features. However, you are not the same person. Fibroids, tumors, polyps and cysts can all cause pain and other inner-bodily havoc but they each have their own individual identities. Fibroids are not cancerous, while tumors can be cancerous. Polyps are made of endometrium tissue and only rarely become malignant, while cysts are generally filled with a watery or mucous material but can become cancerous.

Attention and research toward improved women’s health has thankfully come a long way over the past few decades, so let’s focus on solving real issues. An experienced, competent medical professional will help you sort through the myths and focus on the facts.