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Fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in or on the wall of the uterus (womb). Fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous). Fibroids can grow as a single tumor, or there can be many of them in the uterus. They can be as small as an apple seed or as big as a grapefruit. In unusual cases they can become very large. About 20 percent to 80 percent of women develop fibroids by the time they reach age 50. Fibroids are most common in women in their 40s and early 50s. Not all women with fibroids have symptoms. Women who do have symptoms often find fibroids very difficult to live with. Some have pain and heavy menstrual bleeding. Fibroids also can put pressure on the bladder, causing frequent urination, or the rectum, causing rectal pressure. Should the fibroids get very large, they can cause the abdomen (stomach area) to enlarge, making a woman look pregnant.

Uterine Fibroid Symptoms

Most fibroids do not cause any symptoms, but some women with fibroids may experience the following:

•  Heavy bleeding (which can be heavy enough to cause anemia) or painful periods
•  Feeling of fullness in the pelvic area (lower stomach area)
•  Enlargement of the lower abdomen
•  Frequent urination
•  Pain during sex
•  Lower back pain
•  Complications during pregnancy and labor, including a six-time greater risk of cesarean section
•  Reproductive problems, such as infertility, which is very rare

What Causes Fibroids?

No one knows for sure what causes fibroids. Researchers think that more than one factor could play a role.

These factors could be:

•  Hormonal (affected by estrogen and progesterone levels)
•  Genetic (runs in families)

Because no one knows for sure what causes fibroids, we also don't know what causes them to grow or shrink. We do know that they are under hormonal control — both estrogen and progesterone. They grow rapidly during pregnancy, when hormone levels are high, and stop growing or shrink once a woman reaches menopause.

There are factors that can increase a woman's risk of developing fibroids. Fibroids become more common as women age, especially during the 30s and 40s through menopause. After menopause, fibroids usually shrink. Having a family member with fibroids increases your risk. If a woman's mother had fibroids, her risk of having them is about three times higher than average. African-American women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women. Women who are overweight are at higher risk for fibroids. For very heavy women, the risk is two to three times greater than average. Eating a lot of red meat (e.g., beef) and ham is linked with a higher risk of fibroids. Eating plenty of green vegetables seems to protect women from developing fibroids.

How are Fibroids Treated?

Fibroid Treatment - Traditionally, patients with mild symptoms may be treated with medications that address pain or iron supplements to address anemia. Low dose birth control medications and/or progesterone injections can also be prescribed since they do not cause fibroids to grow and help control heavy bleeding.

Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) and Myomectomy (surgical removal of the fibroids) were the only options available to patients with moderate to severe fibroid symptoms. Now, a safe, non-surgical cure called Fibroid Embolization is changing lives.

What is Fibroid Embolization?

Uterine fibroid embolization is a procedure to shrink fibroids in the uterus. It does not use major surgery, so recovery is faster. It can be performed on an outpatient basis so no hospital stay is required.

Uterine fibroid embolization shrinks fibroids by blocking off their blood supply. The doctor injects very small blood clotting particles into the arteries that supply the fibroids. The particles stick to the vessel wall. This causes a clot to develop that blocks off the blood supply. Once the blood supply is gone, the fibroids shrink. Your symptoms usually ease or go away over time.