Fibroids are small tumors found within a woman's reproductive system. Other names used to identify these small tumors include fibromas, myomas, and leiomyomas. The tumors are firm and compact. They are comprised of fibrous connective tissue and smooth muscle cells and primarily grow within the uterus. In most cases, fibroids go undiagnosed because they exhibit no noticeable symptoms. Some physicians believe up to 75 percent of all women will develop fibroids during their childbearing years. Fibroid tumors are normally not cancerous and rarely grow large enough to be discovered during a physical examination. They range in size from very small to the size of a softball.
Fibroids are made up of smooth muscle cells and connective tissue that is fibrous in nature. Doctors estimate that 99 percent of fibroids are not associated with any form of cancer. Fibroid tumors range in size. Smaller tumors have been found that are only pea-sized with others being as large as a grapefruit. Larger fibroids may cause pain as they begin to put pressure on blood vessels and nerves that support the uterus and surrounding areas. Normally, however, fibroids do not indicate an increase in cancer risk, nor are they indicative of any other health condition associated with women's reproductive health. Although what causes them is unknown, it is believed to be a cell abnormality that reproduces due to excessive amounts of estrogen.
The symptoms of fibroid tumors will vary depending on their size and location. Small fibroids may produce no symptoms whatsoever. Larger fibroids may cause extreme pain and discomfort. Symptoms associated with fibroids vary in severity and include abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent urination, pelvic pain, painful intercourse, and bleeding between menstrual periods. Fibroids may go completely unnoticed unless they grow to the point where they begin to cause discomfort or are found during an annual pelvic exam. In some cases, fibroids may grow so large that they begin to affect a woman's ability to conceive a child.
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