Uterine fibroids are benign growths in the uterus, and something which up to one in three women will experience during their lifetime, often without even knowing it. Since estrogen appears to contribute towards fibroid growth, it’s often assumed that fibroids cease to be a problem once a woman hits menopause. But is this actually true?
Postmenopausal Fibroid Shrinkage
It is true that many of the troublesome symptoms of fibroids, if you have them, may go away after the menopause. For instance, you’ll no longer be troubled by heavy or painful periods.
Very large fibroids can cause abdominal pain, and an uncomfortable sensation of pelvic pressure. Most fibroids do shrink during and post menopause. However, if your fibroids are large, they may not shrink enough to be comfortable.
If you are taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help you cope with menopausal symptoms, it’s important to note that your fibroids will probably not shrink, and therefore any problems they are causing are likely to continue into menopause. Since HRT involves estrogen replacement (and fibroids are markedly affected by estrogen levels), this is an important consequence to consider.
In order to deal with pelvic pressure, frequent urination, pain on intercourse and other uncomfortable fibroid symptoms, you may therefore still want to consider surgical options for the removal of your fibroids. One such procedure, minimally invasive in nature and typically carried out in less than one hour on an outpatient basis, is uterine fibroid embolization. Here, the artery (blood vessel) which supplies the fibroid is injected to block blood flow, which will eventually cause the fibroid to shrink considerably due to loss of nutritional and oxygen support.
What if Your Fibroids are Growing, Postmenopause?
Although the vast majority of fibroids cause no problems post-menopause, it’s important to note that your fibroids should not be growing at this time. If your abdomen is swelling, or if you notice increased pelvic pressure and an increased need to urinate, you should check with a doctor.
Fibroids are benign and do not grow into cancer; however, a very rare cancer, known as uterine sarcoma (cancer of the uterine muscle) does cause an increase in the size of the uterus, which can mimic the symptoms of post-menopausal fibroids. Uterine sarcomas tend to occur in women aged over 55.
Fortunately, it’s relatively simple for your doctor or gynocologist to rule out uterine sarcoma, but you should get the situation checked out, for your own peace of mind.
So, to return to the original question: are fibroids still a problem, post-menopause?
Typically no. If you are lucky, any fibroid symptoms you have had will start to decrease and will eventually fade away completely. However, taking HRT may prolong your fibroid symptoms, and if your sense that your uterus is growing at all, it’s important to seek medical advice post-menopause.