Can uterine fibroids ever turn into cancer?

By Dr. Roshini Raj
April 10, 2015
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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.

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.

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.

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