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Can uterine fibroids ever turn into cancer?

Dr. Roshini Raj
April 10, 2015

Can my fibroids ever turn into cancer?

Don't worry: True uterine fibroids do not develop into cancer, and having them doesn't up your risk of the disease, either.

Fibroids arise from the uterine wall; they often appear in multiples. As many as 25 percent of reproductive-age women may get them. In certain cases, fibroids can grow very large and lead to discomfort or pain. But for many people, they remain small and slow-growing and trigger only minor symptoms, like irregular bleeding, increased urination, bloating or longer periods—if they cause symptoms at all.

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There are a variety of ways to deal with them. Many folks just wait; fibroids often go away on their own. Birth control pills help ease any bleeding or painful periods. Drugs called gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists can shrink fibroids, though they're linked with side effects like hot flashes. If you have a lot of fibroids or large ones, though, your best option might be surgery, either a full hysterectomy or a less invasive procedure. To help you decide, your doc should consider your age, the size and number of your fibroids and whether you plan to get pregnant.

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There is a rare type of cancer called a leiomyosarcoma that can initially be mistaken for a fibroid. But the good news is that far less than 1 percent of suspected fibroids turn out to be this type of malignancy.

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Health's medical editor, Roshini, Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.

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