Fighting Fibroids Without Surgery
- Created: April 10, 2008
- by: admin
By Sarah Wassner Flyn
Chances are, you know someone who has battled uterine fibroids – abnormal, benign growths within the muscles of the uterus that can cause painful, heavy menstrual bleeding, constipation and lower back pain. After all, at least 25 percent of women in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 50 suffer fibroids, with the percentage almost doubling among African American women, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Up until a few decades ago, women with fibroids faced with only one treatment option – a hysterectomy. But thanks to further research and advanced technology, less radical options are now available, including the noninvasive, uterus-saving uterine artery embolization. Here is a closer look at that procedure, as well as more info on fighting fibroids.
DO YOU HAVE FIBROIDS?
It is hard to miss some of the symptoms of fibroids — excessive pain in the pelvis, heavy bleeding, pressure on the bowel or bladder and infertility. But not everyone experiences these overt signs.
“Sometimes I see patients who have no other symptoms other than the fact that they can’t fit into their clothes even though they’ve been exercising like a fanatic,” says Dr. Bruce McLucas, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California-Los Angeles and founder of the Fibroid Treatment Collective in Los Angeles. He adds, “Fibroids can cause the uterus to swell, but it’s easy to mistake that for a little weight gain.”
This reiterates the importance of regular check-ups with your gynecologist for routine pelvis exams that can detect fibroids, if you happen to have them.
A NON-SURGICAL APPROACH
If you find out you have fibroids, do not fear. You do not have to have a hysterectomy or undergo a similarly scary surgery.
“Forty percent of hysterectomies are due to fibroids, and most are unnecessary. So many women do not have to lose their uterus,” says McLucas. Rather, you can opt for uterine artery embolization, a relatively new procedure that injects microscopic plastic particles into the uterine arteries via a catheter, blocking the flow of blood to the fibroids.
As a result, the fibroid tissue shrinks, ultimately relieving symptoms and increasing fertility. Further, pregnancies following fibroid treatment do not appear to carry excess risk. Today more than several hundred thousand women worldwide have found relief with uterine artery embolization. “The entire procedure takes about 20 minutes, but the results can last a lifetime,” says McLucas.
A noninvasive procedure, recovery after a uterine artery embolization is minimal. “Sometimes we require patients to spend one night in the hospital for observation, but many go home the same day. You should be back up to speed within a week,” says McLucas. An added bonus is that there are no wounds or scars since the incision in your upper thigh is as small as a freckle.
The Fibroid Treatment Collective center boasts an extremely high success rate for uterine artery embolization. McLucas explains, “Over 99 percent of our patients have immediate relief from heavy bleeding, 94 percent experience up to 60 percent fibroid shrinkage, and 33 percent are able to successful conceive following the procedure.”
ANOTHER FIBROID TREATMENT OPTION: MYOMECTOMY
Myomectomy – the surgical removal of fibroids from the wall of the uterus via small incisions through the abdomen or the vagina – is another alternative to a hysterectomy. However, due to risky side effects and a higher reoccurrence rate, McLucas stresses looking into embolization first.
“With myomectomy you face complications like blood loss, uterine scarring, and a 30 percent chance of regrowth,” he says. “Go for an embolization first, and if that doesn’t work, you can always undergo a myomectomy. Embolization doesn’t burn any bridges.”