Signs & symptoms of uterine fibroids vs. ovarian cancer

Uterine fibroids and ovarian cancer are two very different diseases with similar symptoms. Both are associated with the female reproductive organs. However, uterine fibroids are more likely to occur during a woman's childbearing years, while ovarian cancer appears more frequently in women after menopause.

What are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are benign (noncancerous) growths that form in uterine muscle walls. According to the Mayo Clinic, they normally appear during a woman's childbearing years and almost never become cancer.

Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids

Oftentimes, women do not even know they have uterine fibroids because they do not experience any symptoms. However, some women will experience abdominal bloating, pelvic pressure, heavy bleeding during and after periods, back pain, frequent urination, and constipation.

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is caused by malignant tumours on the ovaries. According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, there are more than 30 types of ovarian cancer. Tumours can form in the egg-producing cells, the lining of the ovary, and the tissue that holds the ovary together.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Symptoms can include abdominal pain, swelling or bloating, unexplained weight gain or loss, frequent urination, constipation, abnormal vaginal bleeding, fatigue, and the sensation of feeling full quickly.

Uterine Fibroids vs. Ovarian Cancer

Uterine fibroids and ovarian cancer share many of the same symptoms. Doctors recommend an exam if symptoms occur for two weeks or more. In most instances, a regular pelvic exam can detect fibroids or tumours. However, ultrasounds are often used to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for Uterine Fibroids and Ovarian Cancer

Most women do not require any treatment for uterine fibroids either because they do not have symptoms or their symptoms are mild. Mild symptoms like heavy bleeding can be controlled with birth control pills, but more severe symptoms may require non-surgical or surgical treatment options. For women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, surgery is almost always performed. In more advanced stages of the disease, chemotherapy is paired with surgery.