What are fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in the uterus. Your doctor may call them fibroid tumors, leiomyomas, or myomas. Fibroids can range in size from as small as a pea to as large as a melon. They can be located in several areas in the uterus and can cause different types of symptoms depending on their size and location.

Fibroids usually do not cause problems, and many women never even know they have them. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids.

How are fibroids diagnosed?

Usually, fibroids are suspected when a patient reports bothersome symptoms of pelvic discomfort and/or heavy or irregular menses. It is important to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist for an evaluation. If the fibroid is large enough, your doctor may be able to feel it during an exam. If your doctor suspects fibroids, an ultrasound or MRI may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Are fibroids cancerous?

Uterine fibroids are not cancerous, and they do not increase the risk of uterine cancer. A cancerous fibroid, called a leiomyosarcoma, is a rare occurrence, less than one in 1,000. Doctors believe that these cancers do not arise from fibroids that already exist.

Are fibroids terminal?

While fibroids are not cancerous, you can develop complications because of your fibroids. Heavy bleeding from fibroids can cause anemia. Potentially life-threatening complications such as congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, angina, and heart attack can all result from untreated severe anemia. 

Most fibroids are not dangerous or life-threatening. However, it is important that fibroids are treated and monitored by an expert, such as the physicians at the Weill Cornell Medicine Fibroid and Adenomyosis Program.

Will fibroids cause complications?

It is uncommon for fibroids to cause severe health complications. However, women can have heavy bleeding, which can lead to dangerous anemia. Rarely, large fibroids can press on the bladder and ureter, leading to enlarged kidneys. Other bothersome symptoms can occur when large fibroids press on nearby structures and organs. These include lower back pain, constipation, and frequent urination. Fibroids may also lead to pregnancy and fertility complications.

Can I get pregnant if I have had fibroids?

Typically, fibroids do not make it more difficult to become pregnant or have a healthy, full-term pregnancy. Most women who have been diagnosed with fibroids go on to have normal pregnancies.

Although rare, fibroids can cause infertility or pregnancy loss. Fibroids may increase the risk of certain pregnancy complications, such as cesarean section, placental abruption, and preterm delivery.

Is a hysterectomy my only option for treating fibroids?

No. Not all fibroids have to be removed, and a hysterectomy is not your only option for treating them. You and your doctor will discuss treatment based on your symptoms, fertility goals, the number and size of your fibroids, any previous fibroids treatments, and other health conditions.

Fibroids can be treated with surgery and non-surgical therapies, which include interventional procedures and medications.

What are leiomyomas or myomas?

Fibroid tumors, leiomyomas (lie-o-my-O-muhs), and myomas are all terms for uterine fibroids.

What is adenomyosis?

Adenomyosis is a disease that occurs when the cells that normally line the uterus grow into the muscular tissue of the uterine wall. Symptoms most often occur in women in their thirties and forties. The cause of adenomyosis is not fully understood. Some researchers believe that it is the result of damage to the inner wall of the uterus during pregnancy and delivery, or a surgical procedure on the uterus.

How is adenomyosis diagnosed?

Your doctor may suspect adenomyosis based on your signs and symptoms. The most common symptoms are pelvic pain, painful periods, and heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding. Your doctor may notice an enlarged and tender uterus, on examination. Adenomyosis is frequently diagnosed with the use of MRI imaging, or at the time of hysterectomy.

Is adenomyosis terminal?

No. Adenomyosis is a benign, non-life-threatening condition. It can cause pelvic pain and should be treated to lessen symptoms. Excessive bleeding may lead to anemia and the need for blood transfusion.

Will adenomyosis cause complications?

If adenomyosis causes more severe symptoms, it may lead to complications. Although not harmful, the pain and excessive bleeding associated with adenomyosis can disrupt your lifestyle. Prolonged, heavy menstrual bleeding can result in chronic anemia, causing fatigue and other health problems. Adenomyosis may also increase your risk of some pregnancy complications.

Can I get pregnant if I have adenomyosis?

Yes. Adenomyosis may make it harder for you to get pregnant and pregnant women with adenomyosis may have a higher rate of pregnancy complications. The most common complication is preterm delivery. Another complication that has been linked to adenomyosis is fetal growth restriction, which is when babies are smaller than they should be.

Is a hysterectomy my only option for treating adenomyosis?

Hysterectomy is the only definitive treatment to eliminate symptoms related to adenomyosis. However, other non-surgical options can improve symptoms, including anti-inflammatory drugs and hormone therapy, such as a progesterone IUD. Uterine artery embolization and endometrial ablation may improve heavy bleeding. Adenomyosis often goes away after menopause, so treatment might depend on how close you are to that stage of life.

If you suspect you may have uterine fibroids or adenomyosis — or if you are experiencing any troublesome or painful symptoms — it is important to see a board-certified physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating these conditions. You do not need to live with painful symptoms; there are many treatment options to help improve your quality of life.

Patients at the Weill Cornell Medicine Fibroid and Adenomyosis Program benefit from our multidisciplinary and personalized approach to care. Our physicians specialize in many different treatments and therapies.