Noncancerous Tumors of the Uterus

Uterine fibroids are growths (or tumors) of the uterus that are noncancerous (benign). These tumors can grow in the muscle wall of the uterus, on the inside or outside surface of the uterus, or on a stalk-like growth that is attached to the inside or outside of the uterus. They can vary in size from microscopic to large enough to weigh several pounds. Though it’s possible to have only one uterine fibroid, most women have more than one.

Doctors don’t know what causes uterine fibroids, but they do believe hormones and genetics are involved in some way.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Fibroids can cause a variety of symptoms and other conditions, including:

  • Heavy, painful periods that also may last longer than a typical period
  • More frequent periods
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pain in the pelvis or lower back
  • Pain during sex
  • Frequent urination
  • Pressure or a full feeling in your lower abdomen
  • Constipation or painful bowel movements
  • Anemia
  • Miscarriages
  • Infertility

In some cases, the tumors cause no symptoms.

Uterine fibroids are initially diagnosed through a routine pelvic exam. Your doctor may then order an imaging test to learn more about the growths. Common diagnostic imaging tests used are:

  • Ultrasound – creates an image of the outside of the uterus
  • Hysteroscopy – creates an image of the inside of the uterus
  • Hysterosalpingography – creates a special type of X-ray image of the uterus
  • Sonohysterography – creates an ultrasound image of the inside of the uterus
  • Laparoscopy – creates images of growths on the outside of the uterus

Fibroids without symptoms may not require treatment. And though uterine fibroids may grow during pregnancy, they typically return to their original size after delivery. In addition, the growths often shrink and cause no problems once you go through menopause. Even so, treatment is recommended if your period and other symptoms make life difficult to manage or if it’s suspected that your fibroids are the cause of infertility or miscarriages.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Less Pain, Faster Recovery With Robotic-Assisted Surgery

When uterine fibroids require surgery, our gynecologic surgery specialists use the latest minimally invasive surgery methods to ensure a quicker healing time with less pain and less risk. And through the da Vinci surgical system, they’re able to perform these procedures with even greater precision, further improving the healing process.

Dedicated Care for Patients Who Want to Have Children

Our team offers specialized surgical management for patients who need uterine fibroid surgery and want to pursue pregnancy shortly after. Your surgery may be done by a reproductive endocrinologist to guarantee your procedure is fertility-sparing. You’ll continue to see this specialist prior to your pregnancy through your first trimester, when you may safely transition to an obstetrician for prenatal care.

Advancing Care Through Research

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, our team of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery specialists conducts ongoing research and clinical trials to improve our understanding of uterine fibroids and how they’re treated. Through their research, Penn State Health has established itself as a leader in treatments for fibroids.

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