Asymptomatic uterine fibroids

Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2008 Aug;22(4):643-54. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2008.01.007. Epub 2008 Mar 28.


It is estimated that at least 50% of fibroids are asymptomatic, but this figure is likely to be an underestimate as it is based on women in whom fibroids are found incidentally during another procedure (e.g. cervical screening), and there is little, if any, data from population studies on the true incidence of fibroids. If a prevalence of 50% by 50 years of age is accepted, a large number of women have asymptomatic fibroids. Working on the cliché, 'if it ain't broken, don't fix it', it may seem surprising that there should be a chapter dedicated to the issue of asymptomatic fibroids, since the simplistic approach might be to leave the asymptomatic fibroids well alone. However, asymptomatic fibroids may become symptomatic in the future, so it may be wiser to treat fibroids before they grow to a size when they become symptomatic, or treatment becomes more challenging, especially in young women who may desire fertility at a later stage, and in view of the fact that many women are starting their families in their mid-thirties when they have a 30% chance of having a fibroid(s). Despite their common occurrence, fibroids are still poorly understood. It is not known why they form in the first place, what determines their number and ultimate size, the best treatment approaches, or the factors that determine which women develop symptoms. Even when women present with disorders such as infertility, pelvic pain and abnormal bleeding, it is not always possible to be certain that a given myoma is not simply an innocent bystander rather than the cause of the symptom. This chapter addresses the challenging issue of what to do when fibroids are diagnosed incidentally. Firstly, there is the need to ascertain that the pelvic mass palpated is indeed a fibroid, and not an early, more sinister tumour, especially if conservative management is adopted. In addition, there is the issue of size, position and potential for becoming symptomatic at a later date. With the availability of uterine-preserving and largely non-invasive treatment modalities, should more asymptomatic, younger women be offered treatment if it is deemed that their fibroids may cause problems as they grow? Where treatment is not offered, is it necessary to follow-up such women, and if so, with what modality of surveillance and how frequently?

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Humans
  • Leiomyoma / complications
  • Leiomyoma / diagnosis*
  • Leiomyoma / psychology
  • Leiomyoma / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Uterine Neoplasms / complications
  • Uterine Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Neoplasms / psychology
  • Uterine Neoplasms / therapy