In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our June 2012 issue, we asked Laura Corio, MD, WebMD's women's health expert, about the risk factors for fibroids.
Q : Several women in my family have fibroids. Does that mean I am at risk, too?
Josie Richardson was surprised when her dentist suggested she get braces. Although she'd always been embarrassed by her overlapping teeth, at 46 she'd resigned herself to her imperfect smile. But when the dentist pointed out that it was more than just a cosmetic issue -it's harder to clean between crooked teeth -Richardson, a jewelry designer in Boca Raton, FL, signed on for the mouthful of hardware normally associated with teens. Indeed, soon after, she and her 14-year-old son became a matched pair...
A: You may be. Fibroids, which grow in the muscle layers of the uterus and also on the cervix, are the most common pelvic tumors in women. About 80% of women develop at least one fibroid in the uterus by menopause.
Most fibroids don't cause problems. (Fewer than 0.5% are cancerous.) But depending on where they grow, fibroids may cause back pain, constipation, cramping, anemia, pain during sex, and heavy, long periods. They can also make it harder for a woman to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term.
Risk factors for fibroids do include family history, as well as race -- African-American women get fibroids more often, earlier, and more severely than white women. Other factors include having your first period before age 10, never giving birth, and having high blood pressure.
Visit your gynecologist yearly -- more often if you're having fibroid symptoms. Doctors can detect fibroids with a sonogram and remove them surgically. Some women take birth control pills to control heavy bleeding. After menopause, your fibroids will shrink on their own.