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Fibroids (uterine myomas, leiomyomas, fibromas) are uterine tumors that vary in size and are made up of compact connective tissue and smooth muscle. Fibroids are extremely common. An estimated 20% to 50% of women of reproductive age have uterine fibroids, and an estimated 30% to 77% of women develop these fibroids during their childbearing years. 99% of uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous), and uterine fibroids do not increase the risk of uterine cancer.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop in the ovary, typically during ovulation, when the egg is being released from the follicle. Like uterine fibroids, the majority of ovarian cysts are benign (noncancerous). However, post-menopausal women with ovarian cysts have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. According to womenshealth.gov, most women make at least one ovarian cyst every month. Most cysts do not cause symptoms and therefore do not require treatment. Womenshealth.gov also reports that only about 8% of premenopausal women develop large cysts that require treatment.
Doctors and researchers are not sure what causes uterine fibroids to develop, though there is some evidence that a predisposition to uterine fibroids runs in families, suggesting that fibroids are in part genetic. The female hormone estrogen is also thought to influence the growth of uterine fibroids, as the presence of estrogen promotes tumor growth in many different forms of cancer.
Ovarian cysts can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Infection. Pelvic infections that spread to the ovaries may result in ovarian cysts.
The following factors can influence your development of uterine fibroids:
The following factors can influence your development of ovarian cysts:
The following tests may be used to diagnose uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts:
Imaging techniques, which help to better visualize the possible site of the fibroid or cyst. According to the Obstetrics and Gynecology department at UCLA Health, Imaging techniques are commonly used in a fibroid/cyst diagnosis include:
Pelvic exam, in which the doctor physically examines the pelvic region and reproductive organs.
Blood tests, in order to monitor hormone levels and check for possible signs of pregnancy and/or cancer.
Tissue biopsy, in order to rule out the possibility of cancer
Both uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts often occur without symptoms.
According to the National Institute of Health, the following may be signs of a uterine fibroid:
Ovarian cysts typically only cause symptoms if the cyst grows to be large, ruptures, or is twisted or bumped during physical activity. According to the National Institute of Health, the following may be signs of an ovarian cyst:
The majority of uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts are benign (meaning they are non-cancerous). Fewer than 10% of fibroids and cysts require intervention.
If you have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids or ovarian cysts, consider the following tips:
Since most uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts do not cause disruptive symptoms, there is not a regular screening process in effect for fibroids or cysts. However, your doctor may discover a cyst or a fibroid during a regular pelvic exam.
There are no known methods of prevention against uterine fibroids or ovarian cysts. In order to catch any pelvic irregularities as early as possible, visit your gynecologist for an annual checkup.
Many cases of uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts do not produce symptoms and therefore do not require treatment. In cases where treatment is needed, the following methods are available:
The following alternative treatments may be available for patients with uterine fibroids or ovarian cysts:
Check with a qualified herbalist about contraindications and possible interactions before taking any herbs.
If you are caring for a loved one with uterine fibroids or ovarian cysts, consider the following:
If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor:
**Contact emergency services, these symptoms may require immediate medical attention.
To find a women’s health care physician registered with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, visit The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
You may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
For more information on uterine fibroids, visit:
For more information on ovarian cysts, visit:
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