If you have fibroids, you may worry about future pregnancy. Uterine fibroids aren’t usually cancerous, which is good news. But they grow in your womb, and they’re very common during your reproductive years. Fibroids develop as single tumors or as multiple growths. Depending on the type, size, and number of fibroids you have, they could affect your pregnancy. And, studies suggest, they could also impact your health in ways that don’t involve your growing fetus.
After giving birth, some women hemorrhage and doctors need to stop the postpartum bleeding. And quickly, or the new mother could die. Often, doctors perform emergency hysterectomies, saving the mother’s lives but costing them future futility. Thankfully, now, a new study suggests a better alternative: UAE (Uterine Artery Embolization.)
What is UAE?
UAE is also called UFE—uterine fibroid embolization—because we use this procedure to treat fibroids. During UAE, we use a slender, flexible tube (catheter) to inject small particles into your uterine arteries, stopping the flow of blood. If you have fibroids, this starves the tumors of their blood supply, and they shrink and die. But if you have postpartum bleeding, it can stop uterine hemorrhaging, and may prevent the need for hysterectomy (removal of the uterus.)
Can UAE Stop Postpartum Bleeding?
A new study from Emory University’s School of medicine suggests it can! Led by Dr. Janice Newsome, researchers learned that, right now, women with postpartum bleeding are 60% more likely to get a hysterectomy than UAE. And that’s a problem, because “UAE is safer and has an easier recovery than hysterectomy,” she said at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s virtual annual meeting.
She also noted that postpartum bleeding is common. Each year, about 100,000 women in this country develop this condition. And postpartum bleeding is still the leading cause of global maternal mortality.
Currently, most women are treated with a blood transfusion. But the second most common way to stop postpartum bleeding is to give women a hysterectomy.
UAE vs Hysterectomy After Delivery
Here are the stats according to Dr. Newsome’s team. For every 1000 women with postpartum bleeding, 116 received transfusions. About 20 of those women received hysterectomies, while only 13 women were treated with UAE.
While a hysterectomy can stop postpartum bleeding, it also comes with serious, permanent side effects—plus instant loss of fertility for these new moms. Plus, after hysterectomy, moms were twice as likely to face long hospital stays. (Not to mention hefty hospital bills!)
Even more worrying? Hispanic women in particular were more likely to receive a hysterectomy. As were women in rural communities. Or those who were Medicaid patients.
In response to these findings, Dr. Newsome suggested adding an interventional radiologist to the hospital maternal medicine team. She hopes that will help reduce the rate of hysterectomy for postpartum bleeding going forward.
Choosing UAE in Houston
Are you looking for fibroid relief? And hoping to keep your uterus and avoid hysterectomy? We’re here today! Reach out to our team today and schedule a consultation. We can help you decide if you’re a good candidate for UFE!
You can treat non-cancerous uterine tumors, but often, these fibroids return. And that’s a big problem for many women, because fibroids are very common. In fact, about 80% of all women develop one or more fibroids by the age of 50. While that statistic may seem surprising, here’s something you may find even more unexpected .Fibroids are a problem in the animal kingdom, too! And that’s why, this week, we’ve named Bette the African penguin as our Woman Crush of the Week!
When Fibroids Return for Animals
This week, we’re honoring Bette, an 18-inch African penguin living at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, PA. A few years back, she had to have surgery to remove a mass from her abdomen. At that time, doctors also removed several fibroid tumors from her uterus.
While any kind of uterine surgery can be complicated, the process is particularly trying on a penguin. The compact bird’s body is protected by thick feathers (her surgeons used a mustache clipper to get through and make an incision) and three separate layers of skin and blubber, each of which required its own stitches.
Thankfully, Bette recovered well from her surgery. Just days after the procedure, she was hopping around her recovery enclosure, ready to play with toys. Her full recovery took about 10 days, at which point Bette returned to her long time penguin mate, Sidney, and their babies, Sunshine and D.J.
Treating Fibroids in Houston
Unfortunately, human patients don’t bounce back from surgery as quickly as penguins. In fact, according to recent studies, women who treat their fibroids via hysterectomy will face long term health consequences, including an increased risk of obesity and heart disease!
But that’s not all. Even if you choose myomectomy, a surgery that, like Bette’s, removes individual tumors, the fibroids return after treatment quite frequently. Plus, you still have to face general anesthesia, as well as a hospital stay and an extended recovery. And, during that time, you will likely miss work and other regular activities.
So, that’s the bad news. But here’s the good news. Unlike penguins, humans with fibroids have access to non-surgical fibroid treatment options. Minimally invasive fibroid treatments like embolization make for quicker recovery times with less complications down the road. And, while some women’s fibroids return after UFE, the revision rates are the same or slightly better than with myomectomy. In other words, whether you have surgery or UFE, your risk of fibroid return is the same. Making the non-surgical option very attractive, as long as you’re a good candidate for UFE.
So, if you’re dealing with a fibroid diagnosis and want to explore minimally invasive treatment plans, reach out to Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee, your Houston area fibroid specialists! We’re here to help you avoid surgery when possible. In that way, even if your fibroids return, you won’t be faced with a second surgery and increased risk for complications.
Sources: European Radiology Journal
As interventional radiologists, we always want patients to consider every fibroid treatment option. And, we want women to find the least-invasive treatment that will provide them with symptom relief. That’s why we’re honoring our Woman Crush pick, Love + Hip Hop Miami Star Shay Johnson for sharing her fibroid story. And it’s why we are so excited about the results of a new, 10 year EMMY study. Its findings reveal that Uterine Fibroid Embolization provides similar symptom relief to hysterectomy!
Women with Fibroid Symptoms Find Relief
When Shay Johnson got her fibroids diagnosis, tumors were growing on her ovaries. She has said that her fibroids gave her blood clots that were “larger than the palm of her hand.” She also developed anemia, and fainted several times. Eventually, Johnson chose myomectomy: surgery to remove her fibroids.
But she wants every woman to find her best treatment option. Because, she told USA Fibroid Centers, “Experiencing fibroids was the most painful, depressing experience ever. “I went through it for a reason. It’s time we have more conversations around fibroid disease.”
Naturally, we think that conversation should involve real facts about the effects of UFE vs Hysterectomy. Luckily, we have that kind of evidence thanks to the EMMY study we mentioned earlier.
The study followed women who treated fibroids that caused heavy menstrual bleeding. Researchers compared two groups: those who’d had UFE and those who’d had hysterectomy. Women in both groups reported on their clinical results and on improvements in their overall quality of life.
Here’s the great news: after 10 years, two thirds of UFE patients didn’t need hysterectomies. That’s because their symptoms had resolved. Around 35% of the women did go on to have a hysterectomy, but the rest found relief without radical surgery. And, even within the hysterectomy group, 17% of women required follow-up surgical procedures.
Jim Reekers, lead researcher, says: “After 10-years of follow-up, about two thirds of patients with symptomatic uterine fibroids, who undergo treatment with embolization can avoid a hysterectomy.”
He went on to state that after 10 years, women in both the UFE and hysterectomy groups had similar quality of life results. In conclusion, he said, “Uterine artery embolization is a well-documented and good alternative to hysterectomy for symptomatic uterine fibroids, on which all eligible patients should be counselled.”
History of Uterine Artery Embolization
Uterine artery embolization, or uterine fibroid embolization, has been a viable fibroid treatment option since 1995. So why aren’t more women opting for this less invasive procedure? The sad answer is: many women don’t even know it’s an option.
As Reekers told Interventional News: “Not informing patients about uterine fibroid embolization, when these 10-year data are available, is unethical. Uterine fibroid embolization is an interventional radiology procedure that has level one evidence to back its use. In this trial, we treated the worst end-stage scenario without any reintervention, so real world outcomes for embolization will be even better.”
UFE vs. Hysterectomy: Equal Results, Traumatic Differences
In conclusion, study authors found that UFE is a very effective fibroid treatment option. In fact, it was just as effective as hysterectomy. As the study authors reported, ““After 10 years, generic health-related quality of life remained stable, without differences between both groups. The urogenital distress inventory and the defecation distress inventory showed a decrease in both groups, without significant differences between study arms, but with a trend towards better outcome for uterine artery embolization.”
But, there is one big difference between the two treatment options. UFE’s recovery time is, typically, a few days. The aftermath of a hysterectomy can be felt for months, and even years, following the procedure. Given that fact, doctors owe it to their patients to share UFE information. And if your doctor isn’t telling you about this treatment option, come into our Houston area offices to learn more.
If you have uterine fibroids, it’s important to know your fibroid treatment options. Until recently, most women didn’t hear about choices. Instead, they were given hysterectomy or other surgeries to treat fibroids and other causes of pelvic pain. But now we know there are better alternatives to a hysterectomy. Which is why we want women to know all their fibroid treatment options.
This International Women’s Day, we want to help you get the best fibroid treatment outcome! After all, if you have fibroid tumors, lessening the gap between your gynecologist and an interventional radiologist can mean a world of difference to your health. When you don’t know all your treatment options, you may not get the results you want, even if you treat your fibroids.
Of course, before we talk about fibroid treatment outcome, we need people to know about fibroids. To that end, The Fibroid Foundation is launching the new #askHER initiative. What’s the idea behind this campaign? Well, it goes like this. About 70% of all women will develop fibroids in her lifetime. But too many women (and men) have never heard about uterine fibroids! And that’s something the foundation hopes to change.
For that reason, we’re encouraging everyone to #askHER (a woman with fibroids) about her experience. By asking about fibroids, you can give that woman a safe space to talk about her story and feelings. In turn, this conversation can help her get support from family and her entire healthcare team. Which we also hope will help all women get the best fibroid treatment outcomes. But first, she needs to know that there are options when it comes to treating fibroids.
Uterine Fibroid Treatment Options in Houston
In the past, gynecologists made hysterectomies into the standard fibroid treatment. Now, uterine fibroid embolization is a more common option. So, if you want to avoid surgery, you need a gynecologist who understands the value of UFE. That way, you can make an informed decision about your treatment options.
Interventional Radiologist and Gynecologist Collaboration
Today, we know that collaborative care gives patients access to all the minimally invasive options available. Studies by the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology show that gynecologists refer just 61% of fibroid patients to Interventional Radiologists. And that means that only 38% percent had UFE when many more were candidates. The women who didn’t have UFE treatment needed follow up care. What does this teach you? That you have to ask about UFE! Your doctor may not volunteer the information!
Getting the Best Fibroid Treatment Outcome
You do need your gynecologist first to perform a pelvic exam. However, you also need to see specialists like the interventional radiologists at Houston Fibroids to learn about UFE.
That’s because Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that can be done at the Houston Fibroids offices in Katy and Bellaire. During UFE treatment, an interventional radiologist will block the blood vessels around the fibroids resulting in the fibroid shrinking.
Now that you know your options, contact us at (713) 575-3686 to schedule a consultation to learn more about uterine fibroid embolization.
Houston Fibroids’s Dr. Eric Hardee was featured in BuzzFeed’s article discussing uterine fibroids and the various treatment options. He stresses, “the majority of my patients are told that a hysterectomy is their only option, but there are other options available.”
Sometimes, it’s hard to get your fibroids diagnosis. Often, women with uterine fibroids develop symptoms. These include long, heavy periods; weight gain; bloating; constipation and pelvic pain. But what if you already experienced many of those symptoms, because you were carrying extra weight? Or because of other conditions? It would certainly make it harder to recognize an abnormal (but non-cancerous) growth in your uterus!
Missed Fibroid Symptoms
For one woman from Wales, that was exactly what happened. Tina Mathias, at her heaviest, weighed almost 340 pounds. She suffered from chronic back pain and constipation, but when she shared these symptoms with her doctor, they were considered a byproduct of her poor diet and excess weight.
At the time, Tina assumed her doctors were correct. “My periods were normal which is why I didn’t think it was a problem with my reproductive system,” she says.
In the hopes of improving her health and alleviating her worst symptoms, Tina set out on a weight loss journey. She was extremely successful, dropping 182 pounds, but her problems didn’t resolve.
“I’d lost so much weight and I thought I’d be healthier, but the pain in my lower back, sides and abdomen carried on,” she says. “Then it got so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed and I would wince if my husband touched me.”
Still, Tina didn’t think her problems could be caused by fibroids. She simply continued eating healthfully, trying to lose more weight and hoping to feel better.
Brush Offs from Doctors Delay Fibroids Diagnosis
LaToya Dwight also spent years living with fibroid symptoms. Every day, she faced fatigue or bloating. Some days brought painful sex, others saw cramping and constipation. But, despite seeing the same OB-GYN for 12 years, fibroids never entered the conversation. Until she went to get her IUD removed. And her doctor couldn’t locate the device inside her uterus!
After the Fibroids Diagnosis: Finding Answers
For Tina, answers came when Tina got thin, and she had a moment that put everything into perspective.
“When I really slimmed down, my belly was still so large. I looked six months pregnant,” she says. “Someone in work asked me when the baby was due and that’s when I knew something really wasn’t right.”
Still, doctors didn’t immediately figure out what was ailing Tina. They attributed her constipation to a low calorie diet, and didn’t think to examine her for fibroids until sex with her husband became extremely painful. Finally, she was sent for a scan, and doctors discovered a nine-pound fibroid, made of muscle and fibrous tissue, that had likely been growing in her uterus for a decade or more!
It was now dangerously close to perforating her bowel, and doctors told her she needed a life-saving hysterectomy. Just 36 at the time, Tina was devastated but, since the tumor was so large and in such a dangerous location, she had no choice. Now 43, Tina has had to give up on her dreams of having a family, but she is living a happy, healthy and pain-free life.
For LaToya, answers came in a different way. When her OB ordered an ultrasound to find the missing IUD, the technician asked her about her fibroids and symptoms. But the problem was, that was the first time anyone told her that she had these growths!
Once LaToya got back to her OB’s office, the only guidance she received was to get a hysterectomy. But, unlike Tina, LaToya still had fibroid treatment options. At first, she tried lifestyle changes and eating to help her fibroids. Then, through research, she found out about UFE, and found her minimally-invasive solution.
Recognizing Fibroid Symptoms
Luckily, LaToya got a happy ending. But the saddest part of this story is that, had someone diagnosed Tina’s fibroid earlier on, she could have preserved her fertility. That’s why its important for women to know all of the symptoms of fibroids. Its crucial to recognize that, even if your periods are normal, you may still have a problem. You also need to be your own advocate: if your pain persists and your doctor insists its because of your weight, it’s not time to give up hope: it’s time to get a second opinion.
Or, if your doctor tells you to get a hysterectomy, get a second opinion and do your research! Because the earlier you treat fibroids, the more options that will be available for your treatment. And please remember: we welcome all women to our Houston fibroid treatment practice for second opinion treatment consultations. So schedule your appointment today!
As fibroid specialists, we’ve been warning women about power morcellator treatment for some time. Two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning for women with fibroids. It revealed that this common fibroid treatment can spread cancer cells in women’s bodies! And now, the FDA has updated their warnings to reflect the serious risk of the power morcellator.
Fibroid Treatment Options
Here at our Houston practice, we offer minimally invasive fibroid treatment. But many women with fibroids choose surgical treatment. Then, during that surgery, the fibroid removal involves a power morcellator. This is a machine that shreds the benign tumors inside the uterus. Some doctors like this treatment option because it is relatively non-invasive, compared to traditional surgery. Plus, it leaves women with smaller scars, and results in almost no down time. Unfortunately, it has now become clear that this supposedly non-invasive treatment option could actually act as a silent killer!
How a Power Morecellator Spreads Danger
While fibroids are non-cancerous tumors, the FDA reports that 1 in 350 women who are undergoing fibroid removal treatments are also suffering from undetected cancer! For those women who have cancer cells at the time of their treatment, the power morcellator actually makes their cases worse in two ways. First, it increases the risk of leaving behind the shredded, cancerous cells. Second: the morcellator spreads those cells around to a larger area of the uterus. Then, in some cases, those cells spread cancer to other parts of the body!
Given the risk, the FDA originally advised caution when considering this approach to fibroid treatment. Now, they updated their guidance, suggesting they should be packaged with boxed-warnings that reflect the risk of spreading cancer. This combines with previous warnings to only use the power morecellator with containment systems. And to limit its use to women who are under 50 and haven’t entered menopause.
As any woman with fibroids can appreciate, minimally invasive treatments are ideal, but not at the expense of overall health! In our Houston Fibroids practice, Drs. Fox and Hardee offer a different kind of procedure: a truly non invasive treatment that doesn’t put other areas of your health at risk!
A Better Choice Than the Power Morcellator
Known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), treatment is administered through an artery in your left wrist. Using special X-ray equipment, a catheter (small tube) goes through the femoral artery and into the uterine artery, near your fibroid tumors. When it reaches the right spot, the doctors simply inject small spheres through the catheter and into the blood flow leading to the uterine fibroid tumors. Next, those small spheres (embolic materials) block the vessels around the fibroid, cutting off the blood and oxygen it needs to grow. This blockage makes fibroids shrink, and the spheres stay in your blood vessels permanently so the fibroids don’t grow back!
Not only is this procedure fairly quick and easy (you can sit up and walk almost immediately after treatment) it is also a much safer option. UFE patients avoid surgery, general anesthesia, and. most importantly, the risk of spreading dangerous cancer cells throughout their bodies!
While UFE is not for everyone, it is a great choice for those who qualify. If you are interested in learning more, please schedule an in office consultation with our team!
Sources: U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Why do fibroids, menopause and cancer risk go together? Let’s explore that connection today! Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in and on your uterus. We don’t know why some women get fibroids while others don’t. What’s clear is that between 40 and 80% of women will develop fibroids in their life. And that certain factors increase your risk. These include starting your period early, too much caffeine or alcohol, hormonal fluctuations, obesity, poor diet and race. (Black women are three times more likely than white women to develop fibroids!)
So, that’s what we know about getting fibroids. And now, we know something new about fibroids and your cancer risk. According to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, women with fibroids are at a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer.
Again, the reason for this risk increase isn’t clear. But study authors suggest the connection may be your female hormone levels. Regardless of the reasons, one this is certain. Even if you treat your uterine fibroids, you should always mention your fibroid history to your doctor, since these growths could impact other areas of your health.
Now, if you have fibroids, your healthcare provider may say that you need a hysterectomy. But if you decide to surgically remove your uterus, you will automatically enter menopause. And, according to new research, when your body enters menopause, your risk for endometrial cancer rises significantly.
The Connection between Fibroids, Menopause and Cancer
We already know that endometrial cancer mostly impacts women over 60. And it’s also clear that these women are almost universally in menopause. So, we had an idea that this cancer was connected to menopause.
But now, thanks to a study in Scientific Reports, we know that menopause is actually a trigger for this cancer risk. In fact, Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that menopause changes your vagina’s microbiome. (A microbiome is simply a description of the micro-organisms in any environment.) And these changes increase your endometrial cancer risk.
In the U.S., endometrial cancer is fourth most common among women. And, unfortunately, this cancer’s rates are rising. What that suggests is that changes in our environment, including diet, lifestyle, and the vaginal microbiome, may be responsible for this uptick.
According to Marina Walther-Antonio, Ph.D., lead author of the study, finding these changes is crucial. That’s because, she believes, “This could have important implications for endometrial cancer prevention.”
How to Fight Endometrial Cancer
In the wake of this discovery, researchers can now identify several main risk factors for endometrial cancer. They include: Obesity, post-menopausal status and—the newest addition to the list—a high pH level in your vagina.
Plus, Dr. Walther-Antonio says, “We have determined that all of these factors impact the reproductive tract microbiome, further identified post menopause as a key factor, and are looking ahead to discuss potential translational applications of this knowledge, which may bring new approaches to address current health disparities in endometrial cancer,” says Dr. Walther-Antonio.
The goal of the study was to understand how endometrial cancer risk factors alter the reproductive tract microbiome and endometrial cancer risk. We now clearly see that menopause is a factor in your endometrial cancer risk. Which means that you should carefully consider all your fibroid treatment options before choosing one that will prematurely trigger menopause. For more information on less invasive fibroid treatment options, we invite you to schedule a consult with our Houston area fibroid specialists.
Sources: International Journal of Women’s Health, The Mayo Clinic, Journal of Scientific Reports, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health