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Fibroids are non-cancerous growths in the womb. They can be quite small (size of a pea), or very large (size of a melon). They are common and usually cause no symptoms. However, they can sometimes cause heavy periods, abdominal swelling and urinary problems. Treatment is available if symptoms occur.

How common are fibroids?

They are common. At least 1 in 4 women develops one or more fibroids in her lifetime. They usually develop in women aged 30-50 and can sometimes run in families. It is common to have several of various sizes, although some women just have one.

What symptoms and problems are caused by fibroids?

Symptoms only occur in about 1 in 3 women with fibroids. Many women who have fibroids are not aware that they have them. Sometimes one is found during a routine examination by a doctor or by chance during a scan which you may have for another reason.

Fibroid symptoms may include:

  • Heavy or more painful periods
  • Bleeding is often heavier than usual, sometimes with more pain. This can lead to low iron levels and to anaemia which is diagnosed by a blood test.
  • Bloating or swelling
  • If a fibroid is large you may have discomfort or swelling in the lower abdomen. Some women experience lower back pain due to their fibroids.
    Bladder or bowel symptoms
  • Occasionally a fibroid may press on the bladder which lies in front of the womb. You may then pass urine more often than usual. Rarely, pressure on the bowel (which lies behind the womb) may cause constipation.