An ovarian fibroid is a type of abnormal growth, also called a tumor, that develops on a woman's ovary. This growth is solid, which differs from typically fluid-filled ovarian cysts, and is made of smooth muscular tissues that are bound by fibrous tissues. In most cases, fibroids don’t form on the ovaries; they typically form inside a woman's uterus and are only rarely found on an ovary. When they do appear on an ovary, however, they are usually benign, which means they do not contain cancerous cells.
While there are various types of tumors, fibroids are the most common type for females to develop in the pelvic region. This does not mean a woman is more likely to develop one on her ovary than any other type of tumor, however. A woman is usually more likely to develop a different type of ovarian tumor or a cyst than an ovarian fibroid. In general, women have a higher chance of developing fibroids when they are between the ages of 35 and 45. Interestingly, menopause often puts a stop to fibroid growth, and sometimes they disappear altogether.
An ovarian fibroid can be very small. For example, one of these growths could be smaller than a sunflower seed. Unfortunately, they can grow very large as well and exceed the size of a baseball. It is, however, unlikely that a woman will develop one of that size on an ovary. In most cases, large fibroids affect the uterus instead.
If a woman develops an ovarian fibroid, doctors may first work to confirm that it really is a benign tumor before they decide about treatment. Often, ultrasounds and other diagnostic imaging tests are used to help doctors figure out whether or not a tumor is benign. If doctors believe a tumor many be cancerous, they typically perform a biopsy, which involves removing a sample of tissue from the mass or the entire mass itself and then examining the mass for cancerous cells.
In many cases, it is not necessary to treat fibroids. Doctors may recommend treatment, usually surgical removal, if a patient is in pain or experiencing uncomfortable symptoms, however. Often, women do not experience symptoms at all. When symptoms are present with an ovarian fibroid, they often include abdominal pain, cramping, and bloating. Excessive bleeding can be another symptom of fibroids, but it is more likely to occur when the uterus is affected.