Knowing you have uterine fibroids may cause anxiety and raise questions.
You may be asking yourself: Will I be able to get pregnant? Do fibroids develop into cancer? And how are they treated—do fibroids go away?
First off, you’re not alone. Uterine fibroids are the most common tumors in women worldwide.1 Anywhere from 40-80% of people have fibroids,2 and an estimated 20-50% of women of reproductive age currently have fibroids.3
It’s also believed that up to 77% of women will develop fibroids sometime during their childbearing years, and in more than 99% of fibroid cases, the tumors are not cancerous and do not increase your risk for uterine cancer.3
Those are reassuring statistics, but you’re probably still wondering about treatment options, and whether you can just leave them and hope the fibroids go away.
Fibroids are definitely not “one size fits all.” Uterine fibroids are diverse in composition and size among women, and even within the same woman. They also vary in number between individuals.1
Here’s how different they can be:
- Fibroids can grow as a single tumor or in a cluster.2
- Fibroid clusters can range in size from 1 millimeter to more than 8 inches in diameter—or even larger, to the size of a watermelon.2
- Fibroids can develop within the wall of your uterus, inside the main cavity of your uterus, or even on the outer surface.2
- Fibroids can vary in size, number and location within and on your uterus.2
That means diagnosis and treatment can be very different for each woman. If you have no symptoms, you may not even know you have fibroids. Or, your doctor might discover them unintentionally during a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound.4
Do Fibroids Go Away
Treatment for uterine fibroids also varies, with factors taken into consideration such as the size, number and location of the fibroids, as well as your symptoms. You may not need treatment if they are small, or you don’t have negative side effects.2
But do fibroids ever disappear? Sort of.
Fibroids shrink or grow over time, and can change suddenly or steadily over a long period of time. Most of the time these changes are connected to the amount of hormones in your body. That’s because it is believed that each fibroid tumor develops from an abnormal muscle cell in the uterus, which then multiplies and grows when encountering the estrogen hormone.3
Therefore, at times in your life when you have high levels of hormones in your body—like during pregnancy—your fibroids may grow bigger.2
The opposite is also true. Fibroids can shrink when your hormone levels drop, such as after menopause. Once you have passed through menopause, the amount of hormones in your body is lower, causing the fibroids to shrink in size and often alleviating your symptoms.2
There are also medications that help shrink fibroids. One example is gonadotropin releasing hormone analogues (GnRHas). These hormones are given by injection, and target the pituitary gland, which stops the ovaries from producing estrogen. GnRHas also stops your menstrual cycle, but are not a form of contraception, and should not affect your chances of becoming pregnant after you stop using them.5
Research has also been done on targeted therapy, such as with a substance called Collagenase, which exclusively focuses on uterine fibroid cells to shrink the tumors with minimal impact to the surrounding tissues.1
Obviously, another way for fibroids to go away is through surgery.
See a Doctor
If you have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids and want to know about treatment, use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health. You may not be able to wait for them to shrink or go away if you have pelvic pain that doesn’t go away; overly heavy, prolonged or painful periods, or spotting between periods; or difficulty emptying your bladder. And, see a doctor immediately if you have severe vaginal bleeding or sharp pelvic pain that comes on suddenly.4