dp Family Circle - Treatment for Uterine Fibroids

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For Women Only

Q: My Ob-gyn thinks I should consider a hysterectomy for my fibroids. Are there other options?

A: Yes, but fibroids (benign muscular uterine tumors that develop in half of all women, especially during the reproductive years) are the number one reason why women undergo hysterectomies. And hysterectomies are the second-most frequently performed surgical procedure among reproductive women (after C-sections), according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Still, while it is common to surgically remove fibroids by removing the uterus, that may be changing. More women are demanding less invasive alternatives to rid themselves of these growths. Fibroids can be as small as a pea or larger than a grapefruit. While they don’t always produce symptoms, they can cause bowel and bladder problems, heavy bleeding during menstruation, and even miscarriage or early labor.

In recent years a treatment called fibroid embolization has gained ground. This nonsurgical outpatient procedure cuts off the blood supply fibroids need for growth and nourishment. According to Bruce McLucas, M.D., assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine, small, obstructive particles are inserted-via a catheter-into the artery that feeds the uterus. Dr. McLucas recommends it for women who want to lose only fibroids and not their uterus.

Myomectomies are surgical procedures that remove fibroids while preserving the uterus. An incision is made in the abdomen to access the uterus and remove the tumors only. While this procedure has good success at controlling symptoms, it may result in scarring, which may cause fertility problems. And future surgeries may be necessary because fibroids recur 30 percent of the time after myomectomies.

If you have no desire to bear children, hysterectomy may be considered-but there are many ways to perform this surgical procedure. A vaginal hysterectomy involves removal of the uterus and the cervix, through an incision made within the vagina. An abdominal hysterectomy involves removing the uterus, cervix, and sometimes the Fallopian tubes and ovaries, via an incision in the abdomen. The bottom line: When your physician discusses hysterectomy, ask her to detail why certain areas will be removed and the side effects associated with each procedure.

As an educational service, members of the FTC provide questions and answers regarding fibroids. Please note that the questions and answers are not medical advice and there is no substitute for diagnosis and, where appropriate, treatment by a qualified and licensed physician of your own choosing.

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