What Are Fibroids?

Are Uterine Fibroids Cancerous?

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous, benign growths in or on your uterus, composed of connective tissue and smooth muscle cells. These are common among individuals in their reproductive years but pose no increased risk for uterine cancer.

Intramural Fibroids

Intramural fibroids are the most common type of fibroids. They grow within the muscular uterine wall and may lead to an enlarged uterus as they expand.

Submucosal Fibroids

Submucosal fibroids grow just beneath the lining of your uterine cavity. These types of fibroids can alter the shape of your uterus and may contribute to prolonged or heavy menstrual bleeding.

Subserosal Fibroids

Subserosal fibroids project to the outside of your uterine wall. They may grow large enough to make your womb appear bigger on one side. While usually benign, they can sometimes cause symptoms depending on their size and location.

Fibroid Symptoms Vs. Cancer Symptoms

While uterine fibroids often appear during reproductive years. Cancerous tumors in the uterus, on the other hand, involve the uncontrolled growth of malignant cells. It’s crucial to distinguish between benign fibroid symptoms and potential signs of uterine cancer.

Symptoms of fibroids may include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Pelvic pressure or pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Enlargement of the lower abdomen

Uterine fibroids may remain asymptomatic or cause mild symptoms. In contrast, cancerous cells in the uterus can lead to more insidious and dangerous health issues. Cancer doesn’t always have clear symptoms at first but may develop signs distinct from fibroids over time.

Symptoms suggesting uterine cancer rather than fibroids could be:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding unrelated to menstrual cycles
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Vaginal discharge, possibly with blood
  • Persistent pelvic pain

Cancerous tumors, unlike benign fibroids, could cause systemic symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, fatigue, or a fever. If you experience such symptoms, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional promptly. While heavy menstrual bleeding can be common to both conditions, the presence of symptoms such as abnormal bleeding or a mass in the vagina could be more indicative of cancer and warrants an immediate medical evaluation.

Remember, having fibroids does not mean you will necessarily develop uterine cancer, as most fibroids are noncancerous. However, monitoring fibroid symptoms carefully is key to maintaining your health.

Can Uterine Fibroids Increase the Risk of Cancer?

While fibroids are benign and usually do not pose significant health risks, you may have concerns about their relationship with cancer.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that a fibroid is not cancerous. These growths consist of muscle and fibrous tissue and are quite common during childbearing years. Fibroids and cancer typically remain separate conditions. The chance of a fibroid becoming cancerous, or turning into a malignancy known as leiomyosarcoma, is very rare.

Regarding the question if fibroids increase the risk of cancer, current medical research suggests that having fibroids does not increase your risk of developing uterine cancer. These benign growths are not indicative of cancer, nor do they typically change into cancerous tumors. It’s estimated that the incidence of a fibroid transforming to a cancerous growth is rarely cancerous, with studies reporting rates well below 1%.

However, in extremely rare cases, a preexisting fibroid turns out to be cancerous. This is a distinct pathological entity and not a transformation. If you have fibroids, regular monitoring through imaging tests like ultrasounds or MRI scans can help ensure that any significant changes in the fibroids’ characteristics are noted and evaluated by your healthcare provider.

It’s crucial that you maintain routine check-ups, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding or abdominal pain. While the possibility of fibroids becoming cancerous is minimal, vigilance and regular medical care can help maintain your health and peace of mind.

Fibroids With Cancerous Attributes

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that range in size and arise from the smooth muscle cells and connective tissue of the uterus. However, a tiny percentage may display cancerous attributes in a type of cancer known as leiomyosarcoma.

Leiomyosarcoma is a rare uterine sarcoma distinct from benign fibroids and accounts for fewer than 1 in 1,000 fibroid cases. It originates from the same smooth muscle fibers but is malignantly transformed. Unlike noncancerous fibroids, leiomyosarcomas can metastasize to other tissues.

Risk Factors:

  • Having gone through menopause
  • Exposure to certain drugs such as tamoxifen
  • A history of pelvic radiation therapy

Symptoms that may differentiate potential malignancy:

  • Rapidly growing fibroids, especially post menopause
  • Heavy bleeding that deviates from usual menstrual patterns
  • Pelvic pain not typical of menstrual cramps

Diagnosis and Treatment: Diagnostic steps may include imaging tests or biopsy to assess the characteristics of the fibroid. If cancer is suspected, a specialist may recommend surgery both to remove the fibroid and as a treatment measure for the cancer. One must note that treatments for benign fibroids like hormonal therapy are not applicable for fibroid cancer management.

Remember, having fibroids does not considerably increase your risk of developing uterine cancer. However, it’s crucial to monitor the fibroids’ progression, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with uterine fibroids at an age closer to, or after, menopause. Regular follow-ups may include assessing the size and location of the fibroids, the number of fibroids, and associated symptoms such as heavy bleeding and pressure. These factors can help discern if your fibroids merit closer evaluation for cancerous potential.

While the overwhelming majority of fibroids are non-cancerous, vigilance is key, especially if you present with risk factors or symptoms that are atypical for common uterine fibroids.

How Do Doctors Determine If Fibroids Are Cancerous?

When you consult a doctor about uterine fibroids, they will typically start with a pelvic exam to check for abnormalities in the shape of your uterus that may suggest the presence of fibroids. Following the initial exam, more specific diagnosis procedures are employed to determine whether the fibroids have cancer cells.

Imaging Tests:

  • Ultrasound is the most common imaging test that may be used to diagnose fibroids. This test uses sound waves to create a picture of your uterus and detect any irregularities.
  • For more detailed images, your doctor may recommend an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), which can better differentiate between fibroids and potential malignancies.

Lab Tests:

  • In rare cases where the imaging is inconclusive, a blood test might be done to measure the level of a substance called CA 125. Elevated levels are associated with cancer, but this is not specific to fibroids.


  • If there’s a concern about cancer, a biopsy may be performed where a small piece of the uterine lining is taken for analysis.

It must be stressed that fibroids are typically non cancerous, and only a small percentage may turn out to be malignant. The detection and treatment are crucial to prevent complications. The chance of fibroids being cancerous — known as leiomyosarcoma — is very low.

Your healthcare provider might consider all the above factors, including your symptoms and health history, to accurately diagnose fibroids and assess the risk of them being cancerous. Regular follow-ups and monitoring are key to managing your condition and ensuring proper treatment when necessary.

Fibroid Treatment Options 

When exploring treatment for women with fibroids, your options typically fall into two categories—medication and non-surgical methods, or more invasive surgical interventions. The choice of treatment often depends on the severity of your symptoms, your age, your desire for pregnancy, and the size and location of the fibroids.

Medication And Non-Surgical Methods

Medication, such as hormonal treatments, can help treat symptoms or shrink fibroids temporarily. For instance, GnRH agonists can reduce estrogen and progesterone levels, which typically makes fibroids smaller.

Non-Surgical Procedures:

  • Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE): This is a minimally invasive procedure where particles are injected into the uterine arteries supplying blood to the fibroids, causing them to shrink.
  • MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound Surgery: Sound waves target fibroids and heat up and destroy fibroid tissue.

Surgical Interventions

For more aggressive treatment, surgical options are available and may be recommended:

  • Hysteroscopic Myomectomy: Best for fibroids inside the uterine cavity, it involves removing fibroids through the vagina.
  • Laparoscopic or Robotic Myomectomy: This is where fibroids are removed through small incisions with the help of a camera.
  • Laparoscopic or Abdominal Hysterectomy: This procedure involves the removal of the uterus and is considered when other treatments have failed, or if you no longer desire to have children. It is the only definitive cure for fibroids.

These options vary in their invasiveness, recovery time, and impact on fertility. Your healthcare provider can guide you through these choices to decide what’s best for your situation.

Speak With Our Fibroid Specialists Today

If you suspect you have uterine fibroids or are seeking treatment options, contacting a specialist is a pivotal step. At Access Vascular, our experts provide non-invasive solutions, including uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) for the treatment of fibroids. UFE is a minimally invasive procedure known for its effectiveness and quick recovery period.

To explore your treatment options, please schedule an appointment with us. Our specialists are ready to offer the support and care tailored to your condition. Uterine health is vital, and you deserve the best in expertise and medical attention.

UFE may not be suitable for everyone, and consulting with a specialist will help determine the best course of action for your unique situation.

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