In roughly 50% of cases, uterine fibroids are asymptomatic and typically, do not require any treatment. However, over time, these benign tumors will grow and might cause mild to severe symptoms. Today we are going to answer a popular question: “How fast do fibroids grow and what stimulates them?”.
Fibroids’ Growth: Size and Weight
Uterine fibroids are the most common pelvic tumor. They are found in roughly 70% of Caucasian and 80% of African American women. Despite such a huge number of affected females, the general public is often not aware of the condition and many aspects of it remain unclear even to scientists and practitioners.
We know that fibroids are hormone-dependent. This finding was made based on observations of fibroids in women in different periods of their lives. When estrogen dominates (in pregnancy, for example), fibroids tend to progress in growth. When estrogen drops in a postnatal and post-menopausal woman, tumors slow down or regress.
Speaking about fibroids’ growth, we have to mention that round-shaped fibroids vary in size and can reach 20-30 cm in diameter (like a small melon!). The largest fibroid ever reported weighed 140 lbs. and was removed from a patient postmortem in 1888. Among living patients, the largest fibroid ever removed was 100 lbs.
How Fast Do Fibroids Grow?
Fibroids grow at different rates in different women. There is no clear pattern as studies suggest, and neither age, race, nor body weight impact this rate. However, it is found that small tumors tend to grow more rapidly than the larger ones.
Another study managed to calculate an average growth rate of fibroids in the African American women. The rate was 89% per 18 months. They did confirm the finding of the previously mentioned study that the growth rate of fibroids that are less than 1 cm (small fibroids) is higher than the one of fibroids bigger than 2 cm. The research study concluded at the end:
“A 2-cm fibroid is likely to take 4-5 years to double its diameter.”
Degeneration of Uterine Fibroids
When a fibroid grows too fast as it sometimes happens in pregnancy, the tumor can outgrow its own blood supply and die. This process is called degeneration and is often accompanied by severe and sudden pain in the uterus which can be felt on the side of the pelvis where this degenerating fibroid is, or in some cases, throughout the pelvic region. The pain can be severe and mimic appendicitis or diverticulitis. When severe, women will often end up going to the Emergency Room. Fortunately, the pain is usually temporary and controlled with pain medication. It stops when the fibroid tissue dies off.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a nonsurgical treatment for symptomatic fibroids. Tiny particles of an embolic agent block the blood supply to fibroids causing their death. The procedure is minimally invasive and hence, does not involve the risks and long recovery time associated with surgery (myomectomy or hysterectomy).
To learn more about this safer and very effective outpatient procedure for uterine fibroids (UFE), schedule a teleconsultation online or call the Atlanta Fibroid Center at (770) 953-2600.