Uterine Tumors Rarely Cancerous

By: Sharon Bell

A myoma is another name for a fibroid, a benign tumor that develops within the uterine wall or is attached to it. This growth is also called a fibromyoma or leiomyoma.

About 20 percent of women over 35 have myomas. This may occur singly or in groups. Fibroids may be as small as a pea or as large as a grapefruit. Women who have never been pregnant appear to be more susceptible to them.

"Normally, fibroids grow slowly. However, they respond to increased levels of estrogen and so may expand rapidly during pregnancy or if you take oral contraceptives or estrogen replacement therapy. After menopause, these tumors usually shrink and often disappear completely as long as you are not taking estrogen replacement therapy," said Dr. David E. Larson, editor-in-chief of the "Mayo Clinic Family Health Book."

Myomas may produce heavy or prolonged menstrual periods and low back or abdominal pain. Other symptoms include constipation, dysmenorrhea (pain?ful menstruation), and dyspareunia (painful or difficult intercourse).

The good news is that myomas are rarely malignant and most women who have them have no symptoms. But regular checkups are required to monitor their growth. The physician can feel them during a pelvic exam or see them clearly with ultrasonography. If myomas become too large, they can cause a number of problems.

"If your periods become very heavy, you could develop iron-deficiency anemia. Fibroids can make conception difficult, and if you are pregnant, they could cause a miscarriage or interfere with delivery. Some?times, a fibroid attached to the uterine wall becomes twisted and starved for blood and oxygen. If that hap?pens, you may suddenly feel a sharp pain low in your abdomen, and you will need an emergency operation to remove the tumor," Larson said.

If there are no symptoms, no treatment is required. Those with large myomas may have to undergo a myomectomy (the surgical removal of the tumor). This is a major operation with a high rate of complications. A much safer procedure is hysterectomy but don't have one if you intend to have children.

"Before making any decision, consider the pros and cons of all available treatment options in relation to your particular situation. Fibroids aren't cancerous and usually grow slowly. So you have time to gather information about each treatment option," said the Mayo Clinic.

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