Uterine fibroids are benign growths of the uterine muscle occurring in 30-40% of women. The aetiology of fibroids remains the subject of research but genetics is an important factor the condition being more common in Afro Caribbean women.
The tumours are sensitive mainly to oestrogen and progesterone. Most fibroids do not cause any problems and do not require treatment. Some fibroids, however, can cause heavy periods which can lead to anaemia and debilitation, or if the fibroids grow large they can lead to 'compression syndrome' in which adjacent organs may be compressed such as the bladder leading to frequency of urination, the bowel leading to constipation and bloating. Fibroids may press on nerves causing backache and sciatica and can cause cosmetic unsightliness by bulging the abdomen.
The usual treatment for fibroids is hysterectomy which is carried out in approximately 30,000 women a year in the UK and 180,000 in the US.