Uterine Fibroids FAQ
Every year, hundreds of thousands of women seek treatment for uterine fibroids. Many of them choose to have a hysterectomy. While this is a reasonable option, the choice might be made because they don’t know alternative procedures that preserve the uterus exist, like uterine fibroid embolization (UFE).
Uterine fibroids are one of the most common medical problems faced by women between the ages of 30 and 50 years old. While many will not have symptoms, for those who do, they will potentially greatly interfere with their normal routine.
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus. They vary in size and number, with some women having only one single tumor, while others have many. In almost all cases they are benign, which means they are not cancerous.
Why do people get fibroids?
The cause of fibroids is unknown. Researchers believe that estrogen and progesterone levels can play a part in their development. They know when hormone levels are high, for example during pregnancy, fibroids can grow more rapidly. Alternatively, if someone is taking anti-hormone medication, or going through menopause, fibroids may stop growing or shrink. Family history is also thought to be one of the biggest factors in the development of fibroids.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms vary depending on the size, number and location of the fibroids. They include:
- Pelvic pain
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Bleeding between periods
- Frequent urination
- A feeling of fullness
- Abdominal bloating
- Lower back pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Can they be treated without surgery?
Medication can be effective for those with mild symptoms. Doctors often prescribe ibuprofen, acetaminophen, iron supplements, or hormone therapy. However, the fibroids typically grow back when the medication is no longer taken.
Is surgery always necessary?
Hysterectomy remains the most common surgical option. However, this is a major surgery that involves removing the uterus. Recovery can take several weeks or even months, and there is a risk of significant complications. Some risks include hormonal changes, decrease in sexual drive, bladder dysfunction, and the need for hormone replacement therapy. These risks may be why some women choose not to have a hysterectomy and, instead, continue to suffer and alter their lifestyle.
Are there other treatment options?
Yes. Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a minimally invasive procedure option for women who are not planning to have more children and who do not want a hysterectomy. It offers significant advantages over a hysterectomy from reducing risks to increasing patient satisfaction. UFE is often well tolerated, is less invasive, does not remove the uterus or ovaries, and has a short recovery time.
How does it work?
UFE involves blocking the blood supply to the fibroid, causing it to shrink. Our CiC interventional radiologist makes a small incision in the upper thigh and a tiny catheter (soft, plastic, flexible tube) is threaded into the vessels that supply the blood to the fibroid. Image-guidance is used from outside the body to help guide the catheter to the uterine arteries. Once the fibroid is located, the blood vessels that feed it are then blocked with tiny round particles that are injected through the catheter. These particles, which are about the size of a grain of sand, cut off the blood flow to the fibroid. This causes the fibroid to shrink and may go away over time.
To see if this in-office, minimally invasive procedure is a possibility for you, call our office to schedule a consultation today.