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Fibroids (also called myomas) are non-cancerous growths in or on the muscular wall of the womb (the myometrium). They can vary in number and size, according to the individual. Doctors will refer to the size of a fibroid in terms of a developing baby that size - in other words, 12 weeks. Some fibroids can be as small as a pea, but others can be as large as a seven- or eight-month-old foetus.

Fibroids are given different names depending on where and how they grow

Submucosal fibroids grow on the inside of the womb and extend into the uterine cavity.

Intramural fibroids grow within the uterine wall (the wall of the womb). Subserol fibroids grow on the outside of the womb, on the lining between the uterus and the pelvic cavity.

Penduculated fibroids can be attached either to the inside or outside wall of the womb, and they are characterised by a stalk What are the symptoms? The main symptom of fibroids is heavy periods.

When fibroids grow inside the womb (submucosal or intramural), the mechanism that operates menstrual flow may not work properly. The heavy bleeding can be a result of the fibroids making the womb bigger (creating a larger surface of womb lining that has to bleed every month), or the pressure of the fibroids may disrupt the normal blood flow. As a result many women with fibroids will have heavy periods, but experience no pain. Some women do experience pain with fibroids -- not necessarily intense period pains, but a feeling of pressure and a dragging sensation in the abdomen. If fibroids are on stalks (pendiculated), they can twist, causing extreme pain. In some cases, the bleeding can be so severe that sufferers develop anaemia. During menstruation, some women lose clots of blood that resemble pieces of liver. If the blood flow is heavy, the anti-clotting factors that are normally present in the menstrual blood may not be able to keep the blood flowing smoothly, hence the pieces of clotted blood. Other women can experience periods that go on for weeks, sometimes with no real break between one period and the next. In many cases, fibroids can be symptomless. If they grow in a way that doesn't cause pressure on the neighbouring organs, you can live with even large fibroids for many years without requiring any medical help. In most cases, they shrink the menopause and post-menopause years. In some cases the first indication that there may be fibroids is when there is trouble conceiving (infertility) or maintaining a pregnancy (miscarriage). Many women will never know they have them as they can give no symptoms. Significantly large fibroids can enlarge and distort the womb, making it impossible for a fertilised egg to implant.

Many women who have been treated for infertility may have perfectly normal cycles. They will not have even known that they were pregnant, because the fertilised egg would have been unable to attach itself to the lining of the uterus with fibroids there. If fibroids press on other organs, such as the bladder or bowel, you may experience frequent urination, constipation or even backache. Most women do experience some abdominal swelling, although it may be minor. In other women, the lower abdomen can look as though you are in the early stages of pregnancy. What you eat can be crucial because it can help to control excess levels of oestrogen that can encourage the fibroid to grow. And if you need to have surgical treatment because a fibroid is preventing conception, for example, then it is crucial that you start eating well as soon as can, even before the surgery, in order to prevent a fibroid from regrowing after it has been removed.

Marilyn recommends that you follow a plan of action designed specifically for dealing with Fibroids.

By clicking on any (or all) of the 4 sections below you can get a plan of action and find out all you need to know about Fibroids. From how to identify the problem and discovering the cause, to knowing what your choices are and what to do next.

Click on a section below to start your journey back to good health and feeling better again:

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