Uterine Fibroid Q & A
More than 200,000 cases of uterine fibroids are diagnosed each year in the US. Although the causes are not yet fully understood, the effects can be very painful and affect fertility. Although open surgery such as hysterectomy or myomectomy requiring several days in the hospital and weeks of recovery was once the only treatment option available for fibroids, now women have a choice. You and your doctor can decide which treatment is right for you.
What are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growths of tissue in the uterus that typically occur during a woman’s childbearing years. They can be very tiny to very large, individual or multiple, and can often exist with no symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, and might affect fertility.
What causes Uterine Fibroids?
While the exact cause is not known, it is generally believed that uterine fibroids could be caused by genetic changes, hormones, and other growth factors and that there are certain risk factors that increase the chances of a woman’s developing uterine fibroids.
What are the risk factors for Uterine Fibroids?
- Race – African American women are 3 times more likely to develop uterine fibroids, and usually develop them at a younger age
- Heredity – If your mother or sister had fibroids, you are more likely to develop them
- Early onset of menstruation
- Diet rich in red meat and low in fresh fruits and vegetables
What are common symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?
Symptoms can vary from woman to woman, but may include:
- Pelvic pain
- Back pain
- Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods
- Spotting in between periods
- Difficulty emptying your bladder
How can I find out if I have Uterine Fibroids?
Your doctor may order imaging to confirm that you have uterine fibroids, but he may also discover them during a routine pelvic exam. To accurately assess the size, location, and treatment options, advanced imaging like an MRI is sometimes ordered by your physician.
How are Uterine Fibroids treated?
Treatments are customized to every patient and may include monitoring, imaging, and medication. As the disease advances, options to remove the fibroids are often suggested. Although open surgery was once the only treatment available, women can now choose to be treated in the office setting on an outpatient basis, go home the same day, and return to normal activity in a few days. This procedure is called an Embolization. During this procedure, the physician accesses the uterine artery through a small catheter inserted in the patient’s wrist or groin. He then uses small coils to block the blood flow to the fibroid(s). When they are deprived of blood, the fibroids shrink and are eventually reabsorbed by the body. The procedure is performed using image guidance, in a couple of hours. Recovery takes only a couple of hours in the office. Patients go home the same day and are back to their normal routine in a few days.
This treatment option is preferable to many patients as it is minimally invasive, so there is no unsightly scar and no long recovery from an abdominal incision, it allows the women to keep her uterus, reduces discomfort and downtime, and is performed in a safe, comfortable environment by a team who is dedicated to her care. If you have been diagnosed with fibroids, you should learn about all the treatment options available to you. Call us today or click to schedule an appointment to discuss this procedure and your care.