Some fibroids will cause painful symptoms, while others grow unnoticed. So, which size of fibroid is dangerous, and when should you seek treatment?
Here’s the story: larger fibroids tend to cause worse symptoms—in fact, some are so bad that they can send women rushing to the hospital for relief. Plus, it’s harder to treat large fibroids using minimally invasive treatment options such as uterine fibroid embolization. That was the case for Hollywood star Sharon Stone, who recently revealed that she’d been subject to an invasive, surgical fibroid removal because her fibroid was too large for other treatment options. As a result, she spent six weeks sidelined by a post-surgical recovery. In contrast, most women can return to their regular activities within days of UFE treatment. But what exactly are fibroids, how large can they grow, and which size of fibroid is dangerous? Keep reading to find out more!
What are fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in your uterine cavity, within its walls, or externally, maintaining a connection to the uterus with stalk-like connectors. Now, just as fibroids can form in multiple locations, they also come in all shapes and sizes. Some women develop growths that are almost undetectable. But other women live with fibroids as large as a grapefruit. In fact, in some extreme cases, fibroids can grow to be the size of a third-trimester fetus. And, when that happens, symptoms are much worse. For one woman, a grapefruit-sized uterine fibroid left her with numb feet and a suspected cancer diagnosis!
Now, any size of fibroid can be dangerous, since the location of the growth also impacts your health. Perhaps that’s why, in 2017 alone, at least 65,000 women visited the emergency room due to fibroid-related complications. (Back in 2006, fibroid symptoms sent only 23,000 women to the ER, meaning more women may be developing fibroids, or fibroid symptoms are becoming more dangerous.) Naturally, every woman’s body is different; any size of fibroid could be dangerous in your body. Still, as a general rule of thumb, larger fibroids have a more serious impact on your health. Additionally, larger fibroids are more likely to cause disruptive symptoms, including weight gain and bloating, that are devastating, if not technically dangerous.
Do Fibroids Cause Weight Gain
There are a few different ways that uterine fibroids make women gain weight. First, if they’re left untreated, fibroids can keep growing larger. In fact, people have recorded giant tumors weighing between 25 and 140 pounds, meaning those women were carrying around a lot of extra weight in their uterus!
But even when fibroids remain smaller than a grapefruit, these growths can cause the appearance of weight gain. You see, as fibroids grow, your uterus will expand to accommodate its size. As a result, even when larger fibroids aren’t dangerous, they can dramatically alter your physical appearance. In fact, in addition to causing weight gain, a larger fibroid can give you the appearance of carrying a second-trimester pregnancy, just because the growth stretched out your uterus as a fetus would.
Treating Fibroids Before They Become Dangerous
Because large uterine fibroids are damaging to your health, and more difficult to remove without surgery, we’ll look at the size of your growths before discussing your treatment options. If we suspect your fibroids are large, we’ll image them and obtain the growths’ exact measurements. This will help us determine the safest and most effective treatment option for your specific situation.
What Impacts Fibroid Size?
Despite extensive research, scientists still don’t know what causes fibroids to develop. It’s also unclear why some fibroids grow rapidly, becoming dangerous, while others remain small and asymptomatic. Recent studies reveal that your lifestyle and the environment can play a role in your risk for uterine fibroids. Specifically, chemical exposure in the air, in plastics and in certain hair products, in addition to deficiencies in vitamin D levels, seem to increase your risk.
Which Size of Fibroid is Dangerous?
Unfortunately, many different fibroid sizes can cause problems for women. But small growths are likely to be less impactful than large ones, and that’s why we categorize your growths by their diameter. Fibroids between 1 and 5 cm in size—about the size of an orange seed—are classified as small. But between 5 and 10 cm is medium-sized. And fibroids measuring above that get classified as large, with growths ranging from grapefruit to watermelon-sized.
Think these growths couldn’t get much larger than that? Think again: while rare, some fibroids can grow even larger—and more dangerous. In fact, one Brazilian woman developed a 100-pound fibroid that interfered with her ability to breathe—and removing it required a difficult and dangerous procedure. In addition to increasing your risk for complex surgery, larger fibroids can cause other, dangerous complications:
• They impact your endometrium (uterine lining). When fibroids form inside your uterus, they can change your uterine lining shape, making it difficult to get pregnant or carry a baby to term.
• Damage to the uterus is possible. Larger fibroids must be removed surgically, but the complexity of that procedure can lead to unintended uterine damage.
• Very large fibroids can rupture. If they burst inside your body, you’ll experience severe pain, typically without any warning.
• Rarely, large fibroids lead to blood clots. Then, if that clot breaks free from your veins, it can travel to the lungs (called a pulmonary embolism) at which point, this complication can prove fatal.
So, what size of fibroid is dangerous? Clearly, any growth can cause complications, but fibroids left alone to grow larger are more likely to cause complications. For that reason, we encourage you to seek out treatment options immediately after a fibroid diagnosis. As soon as we’ve mapped out your fibroid size, and the number of growths you’re dealing with, we’ll know if you’re a good candidate for UFE in Dallas, TX.
Ready to begin the treatment process? We’re here to help, so schedule a consultation today! We can review your scans, and help you decide if minimally invasive treatments such as UFE will work for your fibroid size.