No one knows exactly what causes fibroids. However, it is believed that fibroids are affected to some degree by the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. According to the Mayo Clinic, fibroids appear to decrease significantly in size (or disappear altogether) once a woman has gone through menopause.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Women’s Health.gov website, fibroids (excessive cell growth) are most common in women who are in their 40s or 50s, but they can occur during other ages as well. However, they tend to shrink after menopause. Fibroids are usually not cancerous or even noticeable when examining some women. However, they can cause complications if they grow large enough (or grow in an area of the uterus that is more affected by their size or presence).
Women don’t all reach the menopause stage in life at the same time. In fact, some women actually reach it before the age of 30. This is uncommon, but it can happen. Therefore, fibroids can occur (and then shrink) at differing ages too, since it is believed that female hormones play some role in the creation and shrinking of fibroids.
Menopause and Fibroids
Nearing the end of a woman’s 30s, her ovaries typically start producing less of two important hormones (estrogen and progesterone). These two hormones aid in several key functions during the childbirth years: regulating menstruation cycles and helping to stimulate the creation of the uterine lining (for pregnancy purposes).
Although a decline in the levels of these two hormones typically begins in the late 30s—and slowly drops as women continue to age—it isn’t until after menopause that the decline in hormone levels reaches a point that positively affects fibroids enough to start shrinking them.
Since fibroids often shrink after menopause, doctors remind women of this possibility when advising them of their treatment options, especially if the woman is nearing menopause age. But if the complications being experienced are problematic enough, or the fibroid is growing too large for its location in the uterus, treatment options do exist.
These options include medications like Danazol, surgical operations like a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and fibroids) or myomectomy (uterus is left in place, but fibroids are removed), as well as other types of procedures such as a focused ultrasound (destroys fibroids without need of an incision).
While fibroids can be problematic until a woman is through menopause, some women (including those who are menopausal) are more affected by fibroids than others. Women who have a family history are more likely to have fibroids than those who do not, and African-American women have fibroids more often than white women, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.