Uterine fibroids are benign (noncancerous) growths in the muscle walls of the uterus. They can be as small as an apple seed or as big as a grapefruit. Fibroids may occur individually or as a cluster. They often increase in size and frequency with age, but may shrink slightly after menopause.

At the University of Chicago Medicine, we offer effective, personalized care for women with uterine fibroids. Our team members are experts in the latest surgical and nonsurgical treatments, including some that are available at only a few medical centers. We want to help you understand the many options available for treating your uterine fibroids and to assist you in making the choice that best meets your physical and personal needs.

About Uterine Fibroids

Fibroid symptoms can vary significantly from woman to woman. Some women experience severe symptoms, while others have no symptoms at all. Women who do not have symptoms at first may experience symptoms as the fibroid grows.

Some of the most common symptoms of fibroids include:

  • Abdominal distension or bloating
  • Anemia (low count of healthy red blood cells)
  • Heavy bleeding, cramping or clotting during periods
  • Infertility or difficulty conceiving a baby
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain or pressure in the abdomen or lower back
  • Prolonged periods (consistently more than seven to eight days)
  • Urinary problems, such as the need to urinate frequently, and rarely, leakage or inability to empty the bladder
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods

There are four types of fibroids based on where and how they grow:

  • Intramural fibroids are embedded within the uterine wall. Symptoms include pelvic pressure, frequent urination, heavy bleeding, prolonged periods and cramping or clotting during periods.
  • Pedunculated fibroids branch out from the interior (pedunculated submucosal) or exterior (pedunculated subserosal) surface of the uterine wall. Protruding out on a stem of tissue, these fibroids can shift and even twist, causing pelvic pain and pressure.
  • Submucosal fibroids grow on the interior surface of the uterine wall, just beneath the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium). They are commonly associated with heavy bleeding, but generally occur least frequently.
  • Subserosal fibroids grow on the exterior surface of the uterine wall, and often cause pelvic pain and pressure.

The exact cause of uterine fibroids is unknown. Women may be at a higher risk for developing fibroids if they have any of the following factors:

  • Genetic history of fibroids
  • African ancestry
  • Reproductive age, particularly age 35 and older
  • Obesity
  • Have not given birth
  • Early or late onset of periods

Black women are diagnosed with fibroids at a higher rate than women of other ethnic backgrounds. Additionally, women of African ancestry generally experience more symptoms and more accelerated fibroid tumor growth. However, women of all ancestries may be at risk of developing fibroids.

Fibroids are not cancerous growths. Additionally, fibroids do not cause cancer. However, there are some potential risk factors, such as rapid fibroid growth or development of fibroids during menopause, that may warrant evaluation or close monitoring for other types of cancers.

Diagnosing & Treating Uterine Fibroids

Fibroids often are detected when a physician feels a firm mass during a woman's pelvic exam. Tests, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may help your physician determine if you have fibroids.

At UChicago Medicine, our first priority is to educate you about your options for uterine fibroid treatment. Our team of experts offers a range of effective fibroid treatment options from medication to specialized nonsurgical and surgical techniques, including office-based procedures.

It is possible to conceive and carry a health pregnancy after fibroid treatment. If you're planning or considering pregnancy, your doctor may recommend medication or myomectomy.

UChicago Medicine offers fibroid treatment alternatives for women who prefer not to have a hysterectomy. Based on your medical history and risk factors, you doctor may recommend:

Refer a Patient

Physicians, to schedule a patient, contact our women's health team at 773-702-6118 or womenshealth@uchospitals.edu.

'Miracle Baby' Delivered After Fibroid Surgery

Neangela Dixon thought a hysterectomy was the only option for relief from her aggressive uterine fibroid tumors. Dixon’s dream of motherhood seemed impossible — until she met Shari Snow, MD.

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Uterine Fibroids