They come in a range of sizes, there are four different types, and you can have a lot more than one!
We wish we were talking about shoes. Or food. Or anything other than uterine fibroids.
Unfortunately, fibroids like to appear in a number of ways—and it’s not like we can choose what kind we get. It’s best to learn what we can about the various types of these tricky growths.
First, a quick refresher…
Fibroids are made of muscle cells and other tissues that grow in and around the wall of the uterus, or womb.1 Fibroids are tumors, but that doesn’t mean they are cancerous—in fact, they are almost always benign (not cancerous).1 However, they can cause heavy periods, bloating, lower back pain, and pain during sex, among other things.1
As we just learned above, fibroids like to play by their own rules. You can have a single fibroid or multiple ones, and they can vary in size from as small as an apple seed to as big as a grapefruit.1
4 types of fibroids
There are several places both inside and outside of your uterus where fibroids can grow. Doctors classify fibroids by where they are in the uterus.¹ There are 4 types of fibroids2:
- Submucosal fibroids: These fibroids grow inside the uterine cavity—think of the growths extending down into the empty space in the middle of the uterus.
- Intramural fibroids: These fibroids are embedded into the muscular wall of the uterus.
- Subserosal fibroids: This type of fibroid is located on the outside of the uterus, closely connected to the outside uterine wall.
- Pedunculated fibroids: The least common type of fibroids, these fibroids are also located on the outside of the uterus. However, pedunculated fibroids are connected to the uterus with a thin stem.
If you don’t have symptoms, your doctor may determine that treatment isn’t necessary. This is often the case. But if you are experiencing symptoms, the type, size, and number of fibroids you have may help your doctor determine which type of treatment will work best for you.
Keep in mind, however, that there isn’t a certain size of a fibroid that would automatically dictate having it removed.2 It really depends on your individual symptoms and situation. Another important factor affecting your treatment decision is future pregnancy. If you want to have children in the future, some treatments may not be an option for you.
The good news is that regardless of which type of fibroid you have, if surgical treatment is required, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean a hysterectomy. There are now several minimally invasive surgical options that treat fibroids while preserving the uterus. Another fact that can help put your mind at ease is that uterine fibroids are very common—in fact, they affect up to 80% of women by the age of 50.1
So, if you have fibroids, you are not alone, and know that regardless of which type of fibroid you have, treatment options are available. If you have symptoms, tell your doctor about everything you’re experiencing so you can find the treatment option that’s right for you.
Check out these tips for discussing your symptoms with your doctor and making the most of your visit.
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Uterine fibroids. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/uterine-fibroids. Last updated February 19, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2022.
- Cleveland Clinic. Uterine fibroids. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9130-uterine-fibroids. Last reviewed August 24, 2020. Accessed August 5, 2022.