With every case of suspected fibroids, before a definitive diagnosis, doctors take care to inquire about the risk of cancer. After all, unidentified growths aren’t always benign, and malignant tumors can arise from the smooth muscle of the uterus. However, fibroids aren’t cancerous, and in those rare instances that cancer is detected, these growths are known as uterine leiomyosarcoma, or for short, uterine sarcoma - a distinctly different classification of tumor. Rarely (less than one in 1,000 patients), a uterine sarcoma will occur and it’s not the case of a fibroid turning into cancer.
At VIVA EVE, we screen for cancer by taking into consideration your risk factors, including age, medical history, and overall health, as well as reviewing the results of the specific tests we do to determine if you are at substantial risk for cancer. Based on that analysis and the totality of your unique circumstances, we make reasonable, different recommendations because some fibroid treatments are not recommended to patients who had cancer or have a high risk for cancer.
Fibroids and Risk Factors for Cancer
When cancerous fibroids are discovered, they are not fibroids at all. They are cancerous tumors that arise from the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus called uterine sarcoma. Uterine sarcoma is not the only cancer of the uterus: endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system and occurs when cancerous cells develop in the lining of the uterus. Approximately 92 percent of uterine cancer cases are endometrial cancer.
Risk factors that increase a woman’s chance of developing uterine sarcoma include:
- Tamoxifen - Women who have been treated with Tamoxifen for breast cancer are at higher risk of developing uterine cancer.
- Radiation Therapy - Women who have been exposed to x-rays or past radiation therapy to the pelvic area are at higher risk of developing uterine cancer.
- African-American Race - Women of African-American descent are twice as likely to develop uterine sarcoma than other racial groups.
Symptoms of Fibroid-Like Cancers
Although rare, uterine sarcoma may be discovered during preliminary testing for fibroids. Signs that differentiate uterine sarcoma from fibroids include:
- Postmenopausal bleeding or abnormal vaginal bleeding not caused by menstruation.
- A mass, lump or growth that can be felt in the pelvic region or vagina.
- A feeling of fullness in the pelvic region or abdomen.
- Pelvic pain.
- Frequent urination.
- Certain types of abnormal pap smears.
- Certain findings on imaging, or abnormal endometrial sampling.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge without any visible blood.
Testing Options in Forest Hills, Queens
Many patients turn to VIVA EVE’s fibroid treatment center for a second opinion in diagnosing their fibroids. While a pelvic exam and transvaginal ultrasound may suggest the presence of fibroids, additional steps must be taken to more thoroughly screen for the potential of cancer. An MRI, pap smear, and biopsy are ordered before the treatment stage to make the most probable determination.
If cancer is suspected, you will be referred to a gynecological oncologist to confirm the diagnosis.
Testing methods to discover cancer include:
- Endometrial biopsy. Your doctor inserts a thin tube through your cervix to collect a tissue sample from your uterus’ lining. He examines it under a microscope.
- Hysteroscopy. Your doctor uses a small, flexible, and lighted tube, put into the uterus through the cervix, to view the inside of your uterus and look for visible fibroids.
- Transvaginal ultrasound. Your doctor inserts a probe into your vagina that emits sound waves. These sound waves generate pictures of your uterus so your fibroid doctor can identify any abnormalities.
New York City Treatment Options at VIVA EVE
While VIVA EVE does not treat patients with cancer, our board-certified fibroid specialists offer a full range of fibroid treatment options, including less-invasive procedures. Visit our center for uterine fibroids and meet with one of our fibroid experts who will partner with you to create a treatment plan that’s right for you. They can provide you with a number of surgical and nonsurgical alternatives, including uterine fibroid embolization (UFE):
- Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). UFE is a nonsurgical procedure to block blood flow to the fibroids, causing them to shrink. There is a less than one-week recovery with few major complications. 90% success rate and recurrence is uncommon.
- Myomectomy. A myomectomy is the surgical removal of fibroid tumors. Although it relieves symptoms and preserves the uterus, fibroids may recur. There are risks associated with surgery and general anesthesia. Recovery varies from two days to six weeks.
- Hysterectomy. A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. It permanently relieves symptoms, but cause the loss of fertility. There are hormonal changes if ovaries are removed. There are risks associated with surgery and general anesthesia. Recovery varies from two to six weeks.
- Hormone treatment. This medication treats your fibroids by blocking estrogen and progesterone production temporarily. It induces menopause-like symptoms as a result of the hormonal changes. In almost all cases, once hormone therapy has been stopped, fibroids grow back.
If your health is being affected by what you suspect may be fibroids, there's no substitution for advice from an expert. If you’re looking for a New York City gynecologist specializing in fibroids, VIVA EVE will provide you with a diagnosis and compassionate care. Schedule a consultation to meet with a fibroid expert today.