Fibroids, also referred to as uterine fibroids, are benign, noncancerous tumors that grow in the uterus. They often appear during a woman's childbearing years, and are the most common benign growth found in women. About one in every 1000 tumors becomes cancerous, although many doctors think that the cancer in these cases is not actually due to the growth itself. As many as 75% of women get these growths at one point or another, but most go completely unnoticed because they cause no symptoms. They range in size from microscopic to grapefruit-sized, and the largest ones can be felt by the woman herself through the abdominal wall.
Uterine fibroids do not usually require any treatment, but can be treated with medication and/or surgery in the event that they become problematic. Those growths that do cause symptoms are often associated with excessive pain or bleeding during the menstrual period, lower back pain, and frequent urination. At one time, particularly troublesome tumors were almost always removed by performing a hysterectomy. However, newer surgical techniques now allow the growths to be removed from the uterus, which is the preferred option compared to a hysterectomy, especially for women who still want to have children.
The naming of these tumors, or a singular fibroma, is done based on exactly where the tumor is located. Intramural fibroids are the most common type, and are located in the wall of the uterus. Those located on the outside are called subserosal fibroids. These can grow quite large, and some even grow partially detached from the uterus, being connected to it by a stalk. If this happens, it is known as a pedunculated fibroma.
Submucosal fibroids are those which develop just inside the inner lining of the uterus, in smooth muscle tissue. Sometimes, these tumors form within the cavity of the uterus, and are called intracavitary fibroids. These will almost always cause noticeable symptoms related to menstruation, if they are large enough. They will likely need to be removed, but this can often be done in an outpatient setting. Rounding out the list are cervical fibroids, which grow in the tissue of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus which leads to the birth canal.
In the very rare case that a uterine fibroma becomes malignant, one of the signs of malignancy is that it will continue to grow after menopause. It is not known what causes this condition to develop. No risk factors have been determined for developing growths, other than being a female of childbearing age.