Fibroids Growth And Size

The most common pelvic tumors in women are uterine fibroids. Approximately 70% of Caucasian and 80% of African American women experience them at some point in their lives, usually between 30 and 50 years old. Although many women are affected by this condition, there is a lack of public awareness surrounding uterine fibroids, as well as, a lack of funding and research regarding fibroids.

About half of the women diagnosed with uterine fibroids do not experience any symptoms and do not require any treatment. Sometimes, these non-cancerous tumors will grow larger and begin to cause symptoms that range from mild to debilitating in severity.

uterine fibroids symptoms
Major Uterine Fibroids Symptoms

What Makes Fibroids Grow?

Although it is not known exactly what causes fibroids, we know that estrogen plays a key role in the development of uterine fibroids. Women with fibroids in different periods of their lives were observed by doctors and scientists, and their progress was recorded before and during pregnancy, after pregnancy, and after menopause.

We know that during pregnancy estrogen levels are dominant, and the fibroids grow larger, but after pregnancy and menopause, the growth slows down or stops completely.

How Fast Do Fibroids Grow?

It is also known that fibroids grow at different rates in different women but there is no clear pattern as to why. Race, bodyweight, or age did not seem to impact the growth rate but it was noted that smaller tumors grew at a faster rate than the larger ones.

Studies show that on average, fibroids grow by about 89% in an 18-month period. For example, a fibroid that is the size of a blueberry or 2 centimeters can take between four to five years to become twice its original size resembling the size of a cherry.

How Large Can Fibroids Get?

Uterine fibroids can reach any size but they are traditionally categorized as:

Table: Fibroid Size Chart
Small Fibroids Medium Fibroids Large Fibroids Giant Fibroids
up to 2 cm 2-6 cm 7-19 cm 20 cm and more
from an apple seed to a blueberry from a cranberry to a lime from a peach to a large mango from a honeydew melon to a watermelon

Giant fibroids are extremely rare but there have been a few documented cases. The largest fibroid removed from a living person was the size of a pumpkin and weighed 100 pounds. A 140-pound fibroid was recorded after it was removed from a patient postmortem in 1888.

Signs And Symptoms Of Large Fibroids

Depending on their size and location in the uterus, fibroids can cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe, and even debilitating. Large fibroids can cause significant issues for women affecting their quality of life, such as:

1. Enlarged Uterus and Abdomen

A woman with a large fibroid will normally have a protruding abdomen resembling pregnancy because the growth of the fibroid has enlarged her uterus. She may even be following a healthy diet and exercise routine but is unable to remove the extra “volume” in her lower abdomen. A woman with a 10 cm fibroid in her uterus can resemble a woman in her 4th month of pregnancy; with her uterus being enlarged up to her belly buttonf.

2. Abdominal Pressure and Pain

Large fibroids can cause pain and pressure in the abdomen making it uncomfortable to lie face down, bend over, or even do routine things throughout the day. Commonly she will report significant, bloating. She will often resort to wearing loose, fitting clothes, particularly during the time around her period.

3. Constipation and Bladder Issues

Large fibroids can exert pressure on other nearby organs such as the bladder, bowels, and spine. The pressure exerted on the bowels will cause constipation. Pressure on the bladder will cause frequent urination, waking up at night to urinate (nocturia), or even leak urine.

4. Lower Back and Leg Pain

A large fibroid located on the back of the uterus can press on the spinal column and cause pain in the legs and back. If the fibroid presses against the sciatic nerve, it can cause sciatica sending shooting pains down the back of the legs.

5. Discomfort During Intercourse

Large fibroids located near the cervix can affect your sex life and cause pain during intercourse.

6. Fertility and Conception

Larger fibroids that grow either inside the uterine cavity or outside of the cavity but near the uterine lining, can affect fertility. Fibroids can grow in the space reserved for a growing baby and prevent embryo implantation or even cause a miscarriage. Uterine fibroids can often mis-shape the cervix or pinch the fallopian tubes and prevent fertilization and conception.