Uterine Fibroids and Cancer

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that form in the womb (uterine) muscles. They are common in women who are in or are past childbearing age. Uterine fibroids form as a single nodule, but are more commonly found in multiples, sometimes filling up the whole lower abdomen.

Uterine fibroids are a source of worry women, because they think that these fibroids will develop into a kind of cancer.

Kinds of Uterine Fibroids

Intramural Fibroids – found in 70% of women of reproductive age, this type of uterine fibroids grows within the walls of the uterus.

Subserosal Fibroids – this type grows in the outer surface of the uterus and continues to grow outwards. They are also common among women of childbearing age.

Submucosal Fibroids – these are uterine fibroids that grow in the inner side of the uterus or the submucosal layer. They usually form as intramural fibroids that gradually grow towards the endometrial cavity.

Can uterine fibroids cause cancer?

Uterine fibroids are often called "fibroid tumors". Thus, most people believe that they are a kind of cancer. The truth however, though fibroids are a kind of tumor, they are non- cancerous growths.

Uterine fibroids do not lead to cancer and do not increase the risks of developing cancer of the uterus. However, studies found that 1 out of 1,000 women admitted to hospitals for fibroid surgeries have leiomyosarcoma.

Leiomyosarcoma is an extremely rare form of malignant tumor of the uterine muscle that is common in women in their late 50s. However, in very rare cases, younger women may also develop leiomyosarcoma.

Symptoms of cancerous uterine fibroids

The two important symptoms of cancerous uterine fibroids are:

  • rapid growth rate of the fibroids or the uterus and,

  • postmenopausal vaginal bleeding.

Though cancerous uterine fibroids grow rapidly, researchers have found no evidence linking it to cancer, meaning rapid growth rate is not always an indication of the presence of cancer. However, in post-menopausal women, the presence of cancerous uterine fibroids increases. It is important therefore important that women in their 50s and 60s (and not on estrogen replacement therapy) have the fibroids in their uterus checked.

Tests for cancerous uterine fibroids

Doctors do a number of tests to determine whether the fibroids in a woman’s uterine is cancerous or not. Some of these procedures include:

Pelvic exam – woman’s reproductive system (uterus, vagina, cervix and ovaries) will be thoroughly checked for abnormalities in shape and size.

Biopsy – this procedure involves taking a tissue sample of the fibroid and examining it under a microscope to check for abnormalities.

MRI/LDH Tests – it has been found that using a special MRI and an LDH blood test, the diagnosis of uterine sarcoma could be dependably made without surgery.

Treatment for cancerous fibroids

There are certain procedures that are used to treat cancerous uterine fibroids. Some of them include having a hysterectomy or the surgical removal of the uterus.

Preventing uterine fibroids

Unfortunately, preventing the growth of uterine fibroids is no yet possible because their cause is still unknown. Fortunately there are ways to lower the risks of developing them.

  • Regular exercise to keep one’s weight down

  • plenty of fruits and vegetables in one’s diet

  • stabilizing hormone levels by taking oestrogen and progestogen.