Fibroids and Cancer
In the United States, an estimated 26 million women between the ages of 15 and 50 have uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that commonly develop in or on the uterus. Although not usually considered life-threatening, fibroids have the potential to put pressure on surrounding organs, impact fertility, as well as cause painful and uncomfortable symptoms. However, many women may have concerns about can fibroids be cancerous and how to treat them.
While fibroids are almost always benign (non-cancerous), many people still wonder about the relationship between fibroids and cancer. At USA Fibroid Centers, we are available to answer your questions on the topic. Below, we share helpful information about uterine tumors, fibroid cancer, and treatment. If you have additional concerns, we recommend contacting a fibroid specialist.
What Types of Fibroids are More Likely to Be Cancerous?
Fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous). One in 1,000 fibroids is found to be cancerous. However, if a fibroid is cancerous, it is called leiomyosarcoma.
Doctors think that such cancers do not arise from an already-existing fibroid. Having fibroids does not also increase a woman’s chances of getting other forms of uterine cancer. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that your fibroid(s) contains cancerous cells.
At USA Fibroid Centers, our experienced fibroid specialists are available to closely assess ultrasounds and MRIs to determine whether a fibroid may be cancerous. If more tests are needed to verify, our doctors will make personalized recommendations for the next steps.
We understand that fibroid cancer can be an immediate concern if a fibroid diagnosis is made. Therefore, we make certain that each of our patients is informed about the details of their situation. When you come into one of our fibroid centers for consultation, we are prepared to fully answer your questions about fibroids, cancer, and your full range of available treatments.
Fibroids vs Cancer Symptoms
Since benign fibroids and cancerous tumors both grow in the uterus, it may be difficult to tell them apart. One issue is that these two types of growths often cause similar signs. If you are experiencing symptoms, it’s essential to seek advice from a doctor or specialist.
Common fibroid symptoms include:
- Heavy,prolonged menstruation between or during your periods
- Anemia, which can lead to fatigue and iron deficiency
- Pain during intercourse
- Frequent urination or difficulty emptying the bladder
- Constipation and/or bloating
- Pain in your pelvis or lower back
- Increased menstrual cramping
- Stomach swelling
In addition to symptoms associated with benign uterine fibroids, signs that a fibroid may be cancerous include:
- Quick fibroid growth that can cause stomach pain
- Post-menopausal bleeding
- Anemia from heavy bleeding that can result in fatigue
- Unusual findings from imaging or blood tests
Some factors, such as age, genetics, and lifestyle, may increase your likelihood of developing fibroid cancer. If you are unsure whether you’re experiencing symptoms of fibroids or something more serious, use our symptom checker and contact a fibroid specialist.
Can Cancer Be Mistaken For Fibroids?
An important issue that cancerous fibroids present is the challenge of differentiating them from benign tumors. Both fibroids and cancerous tumors can look similar while having similar symptoms. Consulting a fibroid specialist can help you avoid delayed or inaccurate diagnosis. Fibroid tumors are also known as leiomyomas and can grow individually or in clusters or groups inside or on the uterus. They start small and can grow quite large.
We recommend prompt action if you want to know if fibroids are cancerous’ since early intervention generally leads to the best possible health outcomes.
How Do Doctors Know It’s A Fibroid Instead Of Cancer?
Medical imaging, including ultrasound and MRI, can be used to tell the difference between fibroids and cancerous tumors in the uterus. Additionally, pathologists (doctors who specialize in analyzing bodily tissue) can look at a biopsy of the fibroid under a microscope and count the dividing cells. By counting these dividing cells, also known as mitotic figures, they can determine if a fibroid is cancerous.
If cancer is suspected based on your imaging exams, further examination or treatment may be recommended.
Though fibroid cancer does occur, it is extremely rare.
Fewer than 1 in 1,000 fibroids are cancerous. The true problem cancerous fibroids present is the challenge of differentiating them from benign tumors.
Can Fibroids Cause Or Turn Into Cancer?
Doctors believe that leiomyosarcomas arise independently of existing fibroids, which means fibroids do not increase your risk of fibroid cancer. Leiomyosarcomas are cancerous tumors in the smooth muscle of the uterus, which have cells that divide. If the fibroid has at least ten dividing cells, it’s said to be cancer.
We also want to emphasize that while fibroid cancer can occur, it is scarce. Again, fewer than one in 1,000 fibroids are cancerous.
Should Fibroids be Biopsied?
A fibroid may be biopsied anytime a doctor is concerned about the growth or symptoms. For instance, a doctor may order a biopsy in situations with abnormal menstrual bleeding or if you don’t bleed during your period. A biopsy may be ordered to diagnose changes in hormone levels or if there is suspicion of cancer. The doctor may want to take a biopsy before fibroid removal to ensure it isn’t cancer.
A biopsy takes only ten minutes and is a simple procedure done in a clinic or office. The doctor will remove a tissue sample using a catheter in the uterus. Once the sample is collected, it will be sent to the lab for testing.
Safe Fibroids Treatment
Though the risk of developing fibroid cancer is very low, it’s still important to keep in mind when considering how to manage your uterine growths. Some treatments designed to treat benign fibroids can make a prognosis worse if they’re unknowingly used on cancerous tumors.
In past years, tools known as power morcellators, a surgical instrument used for division and removal of large masses of tissues during laparoscopic surgery, were used in hysterectomies and myomectomies to break up fibroids and make them easier to remove. In recent years, procedures with power morcellators have been associated with spreading cancer cells. Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against their use due to the risk of spreading undiagnosed cancer cells to other parts of the body.
At USA Fibroid Centers, we offer a safe, effective, minimally invasive treatment called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). This non-surgical, outpatient solution doesn’t use power morcellators and leaves the tumors in one piece. UFE blocks off the blood supply to the fibroids and causes them to shrink and wither away over time.
If your fibroid is believed to involve cancerous cells, you will likely be referred to an oncology team that specializes in uterine cancers. They can discuss your treatment options and make personalized recommendations, including surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation.
There are risks associated with surgery for fibroids. With a hysterectomy, you may experience vaginal bleeding and discharge because of changes in bladder and bowel functions. You’re also at an increased risk for a pelvic floor disorder. With a myomectomy, you have a higher risk for complications in getting pregnant and during childbirth. You may be more likely to develop blood clots and have excessive blood loss.
Many other health conditions of the reproductive system can be painful to live with. Ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome can all have symptoms similar to fibroids making diagnosis more difficult. Your doctor needs to perform the right tests to reach an accurate diagnosis.
Fibroids Cancer Survival Rate
Survival rates for fibroid cancer are lower than other reproductive cancers. The five-year survival rate for patients with Stage 1 of the disease is 50 percent. Patients in the remaining stages have a zero to 20 percent chance of survival. This type of cancer is very aggressive, so it’s important to seek treatment as soon as you notice symptoms of fibroids. This type of cancer is extremely rare, but it’s always important to talk to a fibroid specialist who can allay any fears and discuss a treatment plan for your fibroids.
Find Support With USA Fibroid Centers
We understand that being diagnosed with uterine fibroids can feel stressful and overwhelming. This is especially true if you’re also worried about fibroid cancer. At USA Fibroid Centers, we believe it is important to have all of the facts regarding your fibroids and treatment options.
Consulting a fibroid specialist can provide a range of benefits. Our leading experts can:
- Help ensure an accurate fibroid diagnosis
- Answer questions about signs, symptoms, and treatment options
- Evaluate the patient for signs of cancer
- Review your treatment options
- Alleviate pain and discomfort
- Closely monitor your reproductive health
- Set your mind at ease
- Perform minimally invasive UFE
At USA Fibroid Centers, we’re dedicated to helping people like you find relief from fibroid symptoms to live healthier, happier lives. To speak to one of our experienced fibroid specialists, contact us and schedule a consultation today, or give us a call at 855-615-2555. Along with dozens of clinic locations, we also offer convenient virtual doctor visits.