If you have been diagnosed with a uterine fibroid, you are in good company. As many as 50% of all women have uterine fibroids. A uterine fibroid is a growth within the uterus made of muscle and connective tissue. Because they are often symptomless, women may carry uterine fibroids for years without knowing it. However, when the symptoms are felt, they can be a terrible experience. In some rare cases, uterine fibroids are even cancerous.
What are the Symptoms of Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are often symptomless and only discovered during routine O.B.GYN check-ups. When symptoms of fibroids in uterus are experienced, it is usually caused when the fibroid grows to the point that it presses on other organs and makes them function improperly or causes pain. Uterine fibroids also cause excessive bloating and bleeding. It is unclear why fibroids cause excessive bleeding, but 46% of women who were diagnosed with uterine fibroids describe that as one of their symptoms.
What Uterine Fibroids Treatment Options are Available?
There are actually several uterine fibroids treatment options. Choosing the treatment plan best for you depends on the severity of the symptoms, the fibroid’s size and placement, how close you are to menopause, and your general health condition. Some treatment options commonly used include:
Fibroid Removal Procedures
Surgical treatments for uterine fibroids removal depend on the severity of the problem:
- Laparoscopy is used to remove small ovarian cysts through an incision in the patient’s navel.
- Laparotomy is a surgical procedure that involves making a large incision in the patients abdominal wall to remove larger uterine cysts. This procedure is used for cysts that are potentially cancerous.
- Hysterectomy is the complete removal of the uterus (and thus removal of cysts). Hysterectomy is the most common surgical treatment for uterine fibroid removal.
The invasive nature of these procedures result in longer for recovery times. Because they are so invasive, there are additional risks associated with them that a patient would not be exposed to with less invasive treatment plans.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
UFE is a procedure that injects embolic material into the fibroid through a catheter that is inserted into the artery through an incision in the thigh. The embolic material cuts off blood flow to the fibroid which causes it to shrink.
The benefit of UFE is that the uterus is preserved and it is less invasive than a hysterectomy. The downside to UFE is that the cases of fibroids reoccurring are particularly high; nearly 37% of patients end up having additional surgery to treat fibroids within three years of having UFE.
Radiofrequency ablation is a fairly new “knifeless” treatment of uterine fibroids that uses high intensity ultrasonic waves to heat the fibroid to temperatures between 149 and 185 degrees. The focused heat causes the fibroid to die without harming the surrounding tissue or organs. Radiofrequency ablation is so non-invasive that the patient is not given general anesthetic and is able to go home a few hours following the procedure. Patients who get radiofrequency ablation can usually resume regular activity within 5-9 days.
Talk to your doctor about being tested for uterine fibroid if you have heavy and painful periods that last longer than 7 days, persistent pelvic pain, difficulty using the restroom, or spotting between periods. Discussing uterine fibroids treatment options with your doctor could make a huge difference.