Fibroma: Frequently Asked Questions
Hearing a medical term that ends in “oma” can raise a lot of questions. What is a fibroma? Are fibromas dangerous? Is it cancer? The suffix “oma” means swelling or tumor. But there seems to be endless medical terms that use it—hematoma, lipoma, mesothelioma and sarcoma to name a few. So, what exactly does having a fibroma mean? If you’re looking for answers to fibroma questions, start here.
The definition of fibroma is a tumor or growth that consists mostly of fibrous or connective tissue. Fibrous tissue contains collagen fibers and comprises much of the tissue in tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue throughout the body. You can find it in the skin, fascia, breasts, uterus, lungs, heart, vessels, and other areas. As a result, you can have fibromas just about anywhere.
There are many different types of fibromas because they can occur in so many places. Some of the more common ones include:
- Angiofibroma, which consists of blood vessels along with connective tissue. They tend to show up as small, red papules on the nose or cheek. They can also be pink or flesh-colored bumps.
- Dermatofibroma, which is a skin growth. It can occur anywhere, but is most common on the lower legs, upper arms, and upper back. They range in color and feel like hard lumps under the skin.
- Oral fibroma, which is a growth on the inside surface of the mouth. They can occur anywhere in the mouth, but are most common on the inside of the cheek where the upper and lower teeth meet. They are the result of repetitive trauma or irritation, so they are also called irritation fibromas.
- Plantar fibroma, which is a nodule in the plantar fascia in the arch of the foot. The plantar fascia is a strong band of connective tissue that extends from the heel down the length of the foot to the toes.
- Uterine fibroid, which is a tumor that grows in the wall of the uterus, into the uterine cavity, or on the outer side of the uterus. Females could develop a single fibroid or multiple uterine fibroids of varying sizes. Some are so small they may never be detected, while others are noticeable during a standard pelvic exam.
The answer to this question depends on what you consider dangerous. Fibromas are usually benign, meaning they are not cancerous. Only rarely do they end up harboring a cancerous tumor. In some locations, such as the surface of the body, this also means they usually aren’t dangerous. However, benign fibromas can cause problems in other cases. Certain fibromas can be aggressive and quickly grow into large tumors. If this happens, even if benign, they can cause pain and other symptoms when they press on other structures like nerves or block vessels or ducts.
Some fibromas cause symptoms and others do not. Dermatofibromas are usually painless and don’t cause symptoms. But they can be tender or itchy in some cases. Most of the time, oral fibromas are also asymptomatic. However, plantar fibromas and uterine fibroids can cause significant problems for some people. Plantar fibromas can eventually make it painful to walk or stand. Uterine fibroids can cause menstrual irregularities and bladder and bowel problems. And the severity of these symptoms can vary.
Like many other tumors or growths, the exact cause of fibromas is unclear. For some fibromas, there may be a genetic component. Others, such as dermatofibroma and oral fibroma, seem to be linked to local injury or irritation in the area.
For uterine fibroids, researchers know hormones play a role. Cells making up uterine fibroids have more estrogen and progesterone receptors than cells in normal uterine tissue. It’s also common for uterine fibroids to shrink after menopause when hormone levels decline.
Fibromas generally do not go away on their own. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you must treat them. The need for fibroma treatment depends on whether or not the tumor is causing symptoms or other problems. It may be fine to leave a fibroma of the skin alone unless it makes you self-conscious, interferes with shaving, or is irritated from clothing.
If you can live with the symptoms of other fibromas, treatment may not be necessary. However, when they begin to interfere with your quality of life, it may be time to consider doing something about them. For plantar fibromas, doctors usually encourage noninvasive treatments if possible. Physical therapy, orthotics, and steroid injections can help relieve foot pain. Surgery is usually a last option. The same goes for uterine fibroids. But surgery may be necessary if fibroids interfere with fertility or produce debilitating symptoms. Talk with your doctor to find the best solution for your circumstances.