When to Ask Questions About Treatment
When a woman receives a diagnosis of uterine fibroids, her first thought is often, “Is that cancer?” Fortunately, the great majority of uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous). In very rare cases, though, cancer may be present. If so, it could affect treatment.
FDA Warns of Cancer Risk with Uterine Fibroid Surgery
You may have heard about uterine fibroid cancer in the news headlines. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned women and doctors about the risks associated with a certain type of uterine fibroid surgery, because it could lead to a particularly dangerous and fast-growing cancer.1
The surgery is called “laparoscopic power morcellation.” During the procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision and guides a medical device called a “morcellator” to where the fibroids are. That morcellator breaks the fibroids into small pieces so they can then be pulled out through a small tube.
In most cases, the procedure helps get rid of problematic fibroids with minimal risks, but in rare cases where the uterine fibroids are cancerous, it can increase risk of spreading that cancer into the abdomen, pelvis, and other areas of the body, potentially cause life-threatening complications.
The FDA discovered that one in every 350 women treated with morcellation was later found to have uterine sarcoma, or uterine cancer.
How Can I Tell if My Fibroids are Cancerous?
Currently, the only way to fully tell if a fibroid is cancerous is to order a biopsy. In the majority of cases, the fibroids are not cancerous. In fact, uterine fibroids are very common and often don’t cause any symptoms at all. They can exist for years without any signs whatsoever. In some cases, they can cause symptoms like heavy bleeding, pelvic pressure and pain, and frequent urination. If these symptoms interfere with daily life, doctors may recommend treatment.
There are a number of treatments available for uterine fibroids—morcellation is only one. At USA Fibroid Centers, our interventional radiologists turn to a minimally invasive procedure called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). In this procedure, the doctor uses an advanced ultrasound to find the fibroids, then inserts a tiny catheter into the artery that supplies blood to the fibroid. Finally, small particles are sent through the catheter into the artery to block blood flow, which gradually causes the fibroid to shrink. The procedure is very effective and does not increase the risk of spreadingcancer.
When using UFE, there is little reason to be concerned about cancer because the treatment starves the tumor of blood either way. If the fibroids are particularly large, however, UFE may not be as effective, and other treatments may be recommended. That’s when it’s important to consider a potential cancer diagnosis.
Cancer is Extremely Rare, but Possible
First, remember that uterine fibroid cancer is extremely rare. A recent study estimates that it affects between three and seven of every 100,000 women in the U.S.2 There are a few things that can help you determine your risk, though. For one, cancer risk increases with age, so the older you are when you are diagnosed with uterine fibroids, the higher your risk of cancer. At our treatment facilities, we require a biopsy if you are over the age 45.
Size is also important. Large uterine fibroids are more likely to be cancerous than small ones. Doctors can also conduct additional tests that can give them more clues, including blood tests, MRIs, and biopsies. These tests aren’t conclusive, but they can add to the overall picture, which can help you and your doctor determine what’s best for you.
Check with USA Fibroid Centers for Help
If you notice symptoms like heavy and prolonged periods, anemia leading to fatigue, pelvic pain and pressure, pain during intercourse, frequent urination, and/or constipation and abdominal bloating or protruding belly, scheduled an initial consultation. These are symptoms that may be associated with uterine fibroids, and minimally invasive treatment is available.
We have clinics across the nation in Florida, Massachusetts, California, Illinois, and several in the New York area. Call us today at 855-615-2555 or visit www.USAFibroidCenters.com to schedule a consultation.
1“FDA Warns of Cancer Risk in a Type of Uterine Fibroid Surgery,” American Cancer Society, April 22, 2014, https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/fda-warns-of-cancer-risk-in-a-type-of-uterine-fibroid-surgery.html.
2Elizabeth A. Stewart, “Differentiating uterine leiomyomas (fibroids) from uterine sarcomas,” UpToDate, December 28, 2017, https://www.uptodate.com/contents/differentiating-uterine-leiomyomas-fibroids-from-uterine-sarcomas.