Uterine fibroids are common. At least two-thirds of all women will experience them at some point in their lifetime, with approximately 80 percent of black women and 70 percent of white women developing them. Ebbie Stewart, M.D., a Mayo Clinic OB-GYN, says research has been scarce, and this may be one reason why there’s confusion about the condition.
“There are a lot of myths surrounding uterine fibroids,” she says about the noncancerous growths of the uterus.
Symptoms include heavy menstrual bleeding, anemia, changes in bowel and bladder habits, pelvic pain and pressure and difficulty getting or staying pregnant. Stewart believes lack of accurate information about fibroids may keep some women from getting proper treatment.
Here, she presents crucial facts about fibroids:
Myth 1: Hysterectomy is the only treatment that works.
“That’s clearly not true,” Stewart says. “There are many alternatives to hysterectomy, including less-invasive procedures called focused ultrasound and uterine artery embolization.”
Myth 2: A growing fibroid is a cancer.
“Sometimes, cancers can be mistaken for fibroids, but that’s pretty rare,” Stewart says.
Myth 3: Fibroids only affect women in their 30s and 40s.
“Even if you’re 24 and if you’re having eight days of menstrual bleeding a month, it’s appropriate to ask if you might have uterine fibroids,” she says.
Another note about fibroids and age: Black women are more likely to develop them early.
Myth 4: You can’t get or stay pregnant.
Stewart says fibroids can make pregnancy difficult, but not impossible.