Uterine cancer and fibroids are both conditions that can affect the uterus. Uterine cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lining of the uterus, while fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow in the uterine walls.
Uterine cancer is the most common type of gynecologic cancer in the United States. It usually occurs in people who are postmenopausal or in their 50s or 60s, although it can occur at any age.
Fibroids, also called uterine leiomyomas, are noncancerous tumors that develop in or on the muscular walls of the uterus. They commonly occur in people of childbearing age and can vary in size from small, pea-sized growths to large tumors that can distort the shape of the uterus.
This article discusses the differences between uterine cancer and fibroids in terms of their clinical features, symptoms, diagnostic methods, treatments, and outlook. It also answers some frequently asked questions.
This means uterine cancer cells can
Symptoms may also differ between the two conditions.
Fibroids more commonly
The age at which these conditions typically occur can also be a distinguishing factor. Uterine cancer
Additional clinical characteristics may help differentiate between uterine cancer and fibroids.
Uterine cancer tumors
|Pain or pressure
|Heavy menstrual bleeding
Consistent with previous studies, the researchers found no significant differences in the number of people who experienced pain or pressure. However, bleeding symptoms tended to differ between people with uterine cancer versus those with fibroids.
Doctors use different methods for diagnosing each condition.
Doctors may use various diagnostic methods to determine if a person has uterine cancer,
- medical history assessment
- pelvic examination
- pelvic or transvaginal ultrasound
- endometrial biopsy
- dilation and cutterage, which involves removing tissue from the uterus
- cystoscopy, which is a bladder examination
- proctoscopy, which is a rectal and anal assessment
If a doctor suspects that cancer has spread elsewhere in the body, additional tests may take place, such as the following scans:
Learn more about testing for uterine cancer.
Doctors may use similar diagnostic methods to determine if a person has fibroids, including:
- MRI or CT imaging
They may also use the following:
- laparoscopy to examine the pelvis
- hysterosalpingography to assess the size and shape of the uterus
- sonohysterography, which involves inserting fluid to obtain clear imaging of the uterus
Treatment options for the two conditions will differ.
The treatment a doctor recommends for uterine cancer
Doctors may recommend a hysterectomy for early stage cancer. More advanced cancer may require a combination of the following:
Find out more about treatments for uterine cancer.
Doctors will also choose treatments for fibroids based on the symptoms a person is experiencing.
They may use medications, including:
- gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, such as Zoladex
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- birth control pills and other types of hormonal birth control methods
Some people may require surgery to remove the fibroids, such as a myomectomy or hysterectomy.
Learn more about treating fibroid pain.
The outlook for a person with each condition may vary.
The outlook for individuals with uterine cancer generally depends on the stage of the cancer at diagnosis. Early stage cancer is very curable, with a 5-year survival rate of
However, everyone’s cancer is unique, and many factors can affect it. Ultimately, an outlook is only an educated guess.
Read more about the outlook for people with uterine cancer.
Below are the answers to some common questions about uterine cancer and fibroids.
Can uterine cancer be mistaken for a fibroid?
Yes, medical professionals may
It is important for a person to speak with a doctor to determine their diagnosis and receive suitable treatment.
Can you tell the difference between a fibroid and cancer on an ultrasound?
While ultrasound scans can help in the diagnosis of both fibroids and uterine cancer, they
Additional diagnostic measures may be necessary to make a definitive diagnosis. This may include biopsies or imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans.
What are the first signs of uterine cancer?
One of the first signs of uterine cancer is atypical vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause. This includes:
- irregular or prolonged bleeding
- bleeding between periods
- postmenopausal bleeding
According to the American Cancer Society, about
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Uterine cancer and fibroids are two common conditions that can affect the uterus. While they can both lead to symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pain, they are very different in terms of their causes, levels of severity, and treatment.
People experiencing symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding or pelvic pain should consult a healthcare professional to determine the cause and receive an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
To differentiate between uterine cancer and fibroids, medical professionals may need to use diagnostic tools such as biopsies or imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans.