Uterine fibroids are benign (noncancerous) tumors that grow on or within the muscle tissue of the uterus. Approximately 20-40% of women 35 years and older have fibroids. Fibroids are more common among women of African-American descent. Some statistics indicate that up to 80% of African-American women will develop fibroids. While some women do not experience any symptoms, the location and size of fibroids can cause symptoms that can affect a woman‚Äö√Ñ√¥s quality of life.
Fibroids are hormonally sensitive so symptoms are likely to be cyclical, like menstruation. As estrogen levels tend to increase prior to the onset of menopause, this may cause the size of many fibroids to increase. This may cause an increase in symptoms as well. During menopause the levels of estrogen decrease dramatically, causing fibroids to shrink. However, women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause may not experience any symptom relief because the estrogen contained in this regime may cause fibroids to enlarge and symptoms to return.
The size of fibroids range from very small (walnut size) to as large as a cantaloupe or even larger. Typically, physicians measure fibroids in terms of the size of the uterus during pregnancy; for example, a very large fibroid can cause the uterus to become the size of a six- or seven-month pregnancy (24-28 weeks). Additionally, there can either be one dominant fibroid or a cluster of many small fibroids.
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