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Uterine fibroids

A uterine fibroid is a tumor that grows in the wall of the uterus (or womb). Fibroids are not cancer. 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.

Most fibroids cause no symptoms. But women who do have symptoms often find fibroids hard to live with. These symptoms can include:

  • Heavy bleeding (which can be heavy enough to cause anemia) or painful periods
  • Feeling of fullness in the lower stomach area
  • Enlargement of the lower abdomen
  • Passing urine often
  • Pain during sex
  • Lower back pain
  • Complications during pregnancy and labor
  • Reproductive problems, such as infertility, which is very rare

See your doctor if you have symptoms. Women who have or have had fibroids should see their doctor for regular checkups.

Fibroids are common among women of childbearing age. African-American women are three times more likely to get fibroids than other women. In African-American women, fibroids also seem to occur at a younger age, grow more quickly, and are more likely to cause symptoms. Overweight and obese women also are at higher risk of fibroids.

No one knows for sure what causes fibroids or what makes them grow or shrink. For some women, fibroids stop growing or shrink after menopause. Many treatment options exist to help women who are bothered by fibroid symptoms.

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More information on Uterine fibroids

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • Uterine Fibroids Fact Sheet - This fact sheet offers information on uterine fibroids and their causes, risk factors, symptoms, and treatments.

Explore other publications and websites

  • Uterine Fibroids - This fact sheet describes uterine fibroids, the most common non-cancerous tumors in women of reproductive age. The information includes definition, symptoms, causes, risk factors, treatment options, and research being done on uterine fibroids.
  • Uterine Fibroids - This website links to accurate and up-to-date health information about uterine fibroids. It offers information on diagnosis, treatment, symptoms, and more.
  • Uterine Fibroids: Risk Factors (Copyright © National Uterine Fibroid Foundation) - African American women have high rates of uterine fibroids. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Find out what things put you at risk for uterine fibroids.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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