What is a Fibroid Cyst?

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  • Written By: Janis Bennett
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2019
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A fibroid cyst is a type of common, non-cancerous tumor that is most often found in the uterus. Most cases are slow growing and do not cause any symptoms, and only a small percentage of cases will require medical treatment. Fibroid tumors are categorized according to where they grow in the uterus. Some studies suggest that up to 75% of women will develop fibroid cysts during their lifetime.

Although the term "fibroid cysts" is often used, they are not technically cysts. A cyst contains air, fluid, or a semi-solid material, while fibroid cysts are made up of fibrous material, which makes them tumors. As a result, they are also referred to as "fibroid tumors," "fibrolids," "myomas," or simply "fibroids." Varying in size from about 0.04 inches (1 mm) to about 8 inches (20 cm) or more, a fibroid tumor can grow as one nodule or in a cluster.


The cause of fibroids has not yet been determined, but appears to be linked to estrogen production in a woman's body. These tumors only seem to develop during the reproductive years, and existing fibroids may even start to shrink after menopause. They can grow quickly during pregnancy when estrogen production and blood flow to the uterus increases, but they usually do not cause complications.


Risk Factors

Fibroid tumors are quite common among women who are at a reproductive age, particularly those in their 30s and 40s. Many cases go undetected when there are no symptoms, and they are not always found during an ultrasound. In addition to being more at risk while at a reproductive age, women whose mothers or sisters had fibroids, and women of African descent are generally more at risk for the condition.


Most women who have fibroid tumors have no symptoms at all. In women who do have symptoms, some more common ones include pain, excessive bleeding during menstrual cycles, constipation or bloating, and changes in urinary frequency. Infertility is not a common result of fibroids, but they do account for a small percentage of infertility cases. Where the cyst is located can influence which symptoms a woman experiences.

Types of Fibroid Cysts

There are three types of fibroid tumors, determined by where the fibroid grows in the uterus:

  1. Intramural fibroids, which grow in the uterine wall, are the most common type. They can cause the uterus to swell, and sometimes protrude either into or outside of the uterus.

  2. Submucosal fibroids, also called submucous fibroids, are usually the most likely to cause noticeable symptoms. These fibroids are found within the lining of the uterus, and may extend inside the uterus itself. As a result, submucosal fibroids can cause heavy bleeding during menstruation.

  3. Subserosal fibroids, also called subserous fibroids, grow on the outside of the uterus. These fibroids often cause the fewest symptoms, but can grow to be very large. Some subserosal fibroids become so large that a woman may look up to six months pregnant.


Usually, a fibroid cyst will not require treatment unless a woman is experiencing symptoms. In the past, hysterectomies were common practice for curing fibroid tumors, but alternative treatments have since been developed. These newer treatments include surgery to remove the tumor, medication to control symptoms, ultrasound treatments to destroy the fibrous tissue, or an injection of polyvinyl alcohol beads to block blood flow to the fibroids.


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Discuss this Article

Post 8

I have a cyst attached to my uterus. What does this mean and what type of cyst could it be?

Post 7

Has anyone answered the question about "fibroid cysts" appearing elsewhere in the body? I have a number of lumpy growths on my forearms which have been referred to as fibroid cysts. They are ugly, but don't seem to cause any other problems. I would very much like to get rid of them, but am uncertain as to whether doing so would cause any problems.

Post 6

@rallenwriter: I was googling the same question and found that you also were asking if it was possible to have cysts anywhere else on your body.

I have been suffering severe lower back pain (pain worsened by period) and irregular periods and a host of other problems and my doctor told me I had Coccydynia (inflammation of my coccyx) but I don't think I have!

I am going to have a cyst removed from my breast tomorrow and I wondered if the two were related and if I should go and see my GP about being checked for fibroids or POC. It feels as though I'm wasting my GPs time when I go and list all my problems but I know my own body and I'm not running quite right!

Post 5

I have fibroid cysts, and they are causing me excruciating pain! So much so that I am actually looking forward to my hysterectomy!

Post 4

That' so sad that so many women had to undergo radical hysterectomies just to treat their uterine fibroid cysts.

I recently read that today you can even treat them without surgery -- they have some kind of ultrasound treatment that can encourage the cysts to dissolve, provided that they are small enough.

And even if you have to have surgery, I understand that a lot of it is done laparoscopically; it's very rare for a woman to have to have a hysterectomy for almost any reason these days. I'm so glad for the advances in medicine when I read about old treatments, aren't you?

Post 3

Ooh, these things are just horrible. My friend had a fibroid ovarian cyst, and she had to undergo several fibroid surgeries to get it entirely removed.

This was back in the day before fibroid treatments other than a total hysterectomy were really practiced, so even though she tried keep one of her ovaries, it became clear that the condition had spread throughout both her ovaries and her uterus, so she had to get the whole thing taken out. They said that there was a risk of fibroid embolization or something like that, and so out it all went.

It was really sad for her though, since she had really wanted to have children. However, eventually she moved on, though not without a lot of hormone therapy! So just remember, ladies, if you start showing fibroid cyst symptoms, get yourself checked out as soon as possible -- you really don't want to have to go through what my friend went through.

Post 2

Is it possible to have a fibroid cyst somewhere else in the body? I have heard a lot about fibroid cysts in the uterus, but surely these things occur in other parts of the body, right?

Or since they are so closely linked to estrogen, do they only occur in the uterus? But even if that is the case, wouldn't it be possible to get a fibroid cyst in the breast, since that is also closely linked to estrogen?

Could you give me a little more information on the topic?

Post 1

The correct spelling is estrogen. It helps to spell words correctly if you wish your information to be regarded as coming from a knowledgeable source.

Moderator's reply: Thank you for visiting wiseGEEK! Most of our writers are from the United States, and "estrogen" is the correct spelling in the U.S., according to Webster's New World Dictionary of American English/Third College Edition. "Oestrogen" is the commonly used spelling for British English.

Thank you again for visiting and for posting to our discussion forums!

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