Here in Houston, our team of interventional radiologists have been providing UFE for years. Short for Uterine Fibroid Embolization, this is minimally-invasive fibroid treatment that’s been around for quite some time. But in other parts of the world, that isn’t the case. Internationally, women have spent years dealing with fibroid symptoms or opting for invasive treatments like hysterectomies.
A hysterectomy is a serious surgery that immediately puts a woman into menopause. It can also leave her dealing with years of complications. That’s why we are happy to reveal that Uterine Fibroid Embolization, an effective outpatient fibroid procedure, has a rich history in this country. Plus, now, it’s available to the women of Nepal and other international locations.
History of UFE Alternative to Hysterectomy
The first Uterine Fibroid Embolization procedure was in Paris in 1974. The procedure helped a woman whose fibroids caused heavy bleeding and anemia. Then, after years of development, the doctors launched the first clinical trial in 1995.
At that time, the results were great. Of the participants, 75% saw great results. Then, in turn, five and 10-year studies proved this minimally-invasive treatment was a great alternative to hysterectomy.
Because of good outcomes and less down time, more and more women are choosing UFE for fibroid treatment. This is helping so many patients avoid unnecessary hysterectomies. And it’s helped spread the word about this fibroid treatment option all across the world.
UFE Comes to Kathmandu
Recently, the doctors at Nepal Mediciti Hospital performed a UFE procedure on a 37-year-old Kathmandu resident.
With UFE, doctors insert a catheter into your arm in order to access the arteries that supply blood to your uterus—and your fibroids. They inject particles into the catheter (a small, flexible tube) blocking the surrounding blood vessels and cutting off the fibroid’s nourishment. This blockage causes your fibroids to shrink and then die.
The procedure can often be performed on an out-patient basis. You do not typically need to stay in the hospital when you have UFE. And, usually, your recovery period is brief: many women return to work or regular activity levels within days of treatment.
Any time we see women gaining more healthcare options, our fibroid specialists start to celebrate. There is nothing we care about more than helping women avoid invasive surgeries that can impact their fertility—and the rest of their lives.
When you need a guide to fibroid treatments, things get confusion. After all, at one point, removing the entire uterus (hysterectomy) was women’s only fibroid treatment option. But today, that’s far from the case. While we don’t know why you develop fibroids, we do know that some things (such as delaying childbirth or your race or genetics) can increase your risk. And, we know these growths may leave you dealing with disruptive symptoms, they aren’t cancerous. And that means you don’t need to rush sorting through your treatment options.
Instead, take your time and consider a range of options. These may depend on the size of your fibroids and the severity of your symptoms. And, may we suggest starting with the less invasive options and working your way up to more permanent solutions if needed.
Option One: Leave Your Fibroids Alone
If your fibroids are small, you may want to leave them be. Or if your fibroids aren’t causing problems, treatment may be avoidable. Or, if you’re not getting pregnant any time soon, delaying treatment be best. But, the important thing to remember is: even if you decide not to treat your fibroids, that’s a decision that should be made after a lengthy discussion with your doctor and your fibroid specialist.
Option Two: Live a Fibroid-Friendly Lifestyle
While you may not actively treat your fibroids, you can still take steps to help keep existing tumors from growing larger. And, while we can’t know for sure, some of these changes may also stop new fibroids from ever developing.
The biggest lifestyle changes you make to fight fibroids involve your diet and exercise. Again, while we don’t know exactly why fibroids form, we also know that estrogen can impact fibroid development. Which means that women with fibroids should balance out their estrogen levels, and one key way to do so is by maintaining a healthy body weight.
This means following a balanced, healthy diet, full of fruits and veggies, and void of fatty foods—especially red meats. Regular exercise can also help you lose a few pounds. Plus, some studies suggest that exercise can help minimize your fibroid symptoms, even if it doesn’t lead to weight loss, or even if you’re already at your ideal weight.
Option Three: Medications that Fight Fibroids
Some hormone-based drugs can help manage your fibroids symptoms. They may even shrink existing tumors.
Certain drugs work by blocking your body’s natural hormone production, causing your fibroids to shrink, and stopping many of the worst fibroid symptoms, like long, heavy periods, pain in your pelvis, and the frequent need to pee. Unfortunately, these meds may replace fibroid symptoms with side effects that mimic menopause, which can be equally unpleasant, and force you to start taking more drugs to manage the new symptoms. Yet these new drugs may make the hormone blockers less effective, allowing your fibroids to flourish…basically, hormone blocking puts you on a not-so-thrilling roller coaster ride. Which is why it’s typically a short-term treatment option for women who’ve opted for surgery, but first hope to shrink their fibroids a bit.
In contrast, medications with hormones may also be used to treat fibroid symptoms. Drugs with ‘male’ hormones (androgen) can shrink your fibroids and stop your periods. But they may result in unwanted side effects, like unwanted hair growth, weight gain and a lowering of your voice.
Hormonal birth control can also manage fibroid symptoms, by helping control the length of your periods. They may give you relief from heavy periods, but they won’t do anything to shrink your fibroids, and your symptoms will likely return if you stop taking the contraceptives.
And don’t forget over-the-counter options like Ibuprofen—they can help you cope with mild to moderate pain, without impacting your fibroid size or development in any way.
Option Four: Uterine artery embolization (UAE)
This procedure, also known as uterine fibroid embolization, is what we provide in our Houston fibroid clinic. With UFE, we shrink and kill your fibroids by cutting off their blood supply. We insert a catheter through your arm, and inject it with tiny particles that block any blood from reaching the fibroids in or on your uterus. The procedure comes with an easy recovery period, and is typically performed on an outpatient basis.
As interventional radiologists, we believe in UFE because it is less invasive and more cost effective than surgery. UFE also leaves women dealing with fewer complications, while providing equal or greater relief from fibroid symptoms. While safe for most women, if you still plan on becoming pregnant after UFE, you and your doctor should carefully discuss your eligibility for this treatment option.
Option Five: Fibroid Surgery
In some cases, women may elect to surgically remove their fibroids—myomectomy. And, in extreme cases, they may need a hysterectomy (complete removal of the uterus.) But, many women can avoid invasive surgeries—which come with hospital stays, extended recoveries and, especially with hysterectomy, long-term complications—by starting their treatment journey with one or more of other treatment options we’ve discussed. Want more information, or need help truly understanding your fibroid treatment options? That’s what we’re here for: reach out to our specialists and schedule a consultation, so we can help you make this important decision.
Are you worried about sex after hysterectomy? Or concerned about how it will impact your overall health? Well you’re not alone. And you’ve got good reasons to be concerned!
After all, getting a hysterectomy means removing your uterus. In some cases, your ovaries or even your cervix may also be removed. Hysterectomies are among the 10 most common operations performed every year in the US. In fact, over 300,000 hysterectomies are performed every year for non-cancerous conditions. And one of those conditions is uterine fibroids.
We’re here to help women avoid hysterectomy surgeries that aren’t needed. And that’s a big deal. Because, according to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 400,000 women each year get hysterectomies. Sadly, up to 70% of those surgeries were likely avoidable. (Which means other treatments could have been offered.)
What’s worse? Many women with fibroids learn this the hard way. In fact, they’re often told hysterectomies are the only way to relieve fibroid symptoms. But help could come with less invasive treatment options. Now, we want to help make sure women know about those alternatives! So they can avoid hysterectomy, whenever possible.
Hysterectomies Aren’t the Only Option for Fibroid Treatments
While some women may need a hysterectomy to treat their fibroids, others can be helped with medication, myomectomies, or minimally invasive procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization. Also known as UFE, this last is a procedure performed by specialists like Houston’s Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee. Doctors inject embolizing materials into the blood vessels that feed a woman’s tumors. Soon, they ‘starve’ and shrink, all without a surgical procedure, hospital stay or down time.
Spreading the Word about Fibroid Treatment Options
So, if there are other effective fibroid treatments, why are so many women still giving up on their uterus and fertility? Quite simply, they don’t know they have a choice! According to Sir Marcus Setchell, a former British gynaecologist, “There is clearly a failure of communication about the use of these less-invasive treatments.” And, says Dr. Anne Deans, another British gynaecologist who consulted on this project, “Women should be given a choice, but many are not being told about the alternatives to hysterectomies. This is major surgery involving six weeks off work.”
Now, fibroid specialists like our Houston doctors are working to publicize alternatives with the hashtag #FibroidFix. And now, we aren’t alone! Recently, the Fibroid Fighters Foundation launched a new campaign, “Talk about U.” Now, can you guess what the ‘U’ stands for? It’s all about the uterus. And they’re encouraging women to do just that, in order to help get out the word about fibroids.
Women Helping Women
Fibroid Fighters Foundation Founder Dr. Yan Katsnelson says the campaign is critical. Because women don’t talk about fibroids. So they’re “one of the least discussed chronic health challenges that women face.” To change that, her non-profit is helping women record virtual interviews for sharing on social media.
Women can go to their site and answer a series of questions by audio, video or in writing. The topics cover your journey to diagnosis; how fibroids impact your life; and if or how you’ve navigated fibroid treatment options. The goal? To arm women with information, so you can avoid hysterectomy if possible.
Because, as Dearra Williams recently said after sharing her interview, “I didn’t know that other women had experienced fibroids until I started speaking up about my own condition. Experiencing fibroids is tough, and women need to know that they are not alone. We need to support each other because there are thousands of women going through this.”
We love Dearra’s message, and we want to help change the current state of fibroid treatment. Because, now, there too many women who think fibroid diagnoses must lead to hysterectomies. And we know that’s not true. So, will you help us spread the word about alternative treatments? We urge you to visit the Fibroid Fighting Foundation and “Talk About U.” Or just share this article with the hashtag #FibroidFix. Together, we can help women avoid invasive, life-altering surgeries! And remember: if you’re one of the women still searching for a fibroid solution, come to our office for a consultation. We can help you explore ALL your treatment options!
When choosing how to treat your fibroids, you need to know the effects of hysterectomy. As many as 70% of women will develop uterine fibroids in their lifetime. And they’ll likely experience symptoms such as heavy bleeding and pelvic pain or pressure. When fibroid symptoms are painful and disruptive, you want relief. Just be sure to choose a treatment that won’t cause you more problems down the road.
Why is Hysterectomy a Challenging Fibroid Treatment?
Many women with fibroids consider hysterectomy. In fact, about 600,000 American women get hysterectomies each year. But, many times, a less drastic procedure could have worked instead. Check out these reasons why you shouldn’t have a hysterectomy.
Other Effects of Hysterectomy: Who Shouldn’t Get One?
Even if your doctor says a hysterectomy if your best treatment choice, there are good reasons to explore other options. You should not choose hysterectomy if:
You want a baby in the future. A hysterectomy is not an option for women if they would like to have a baby. If you are young and have fibroids, consider alternatives. Even if you don’t want kids now, really think about your options. After all, a hysterectomy is forever.
You can’t afford to take time off. Traditional hysterectomies take approximately six weeks to recover, while minimally invasive procedures can take about two weeks. For women who are busy with school, work, or raising a family, this time off may severely impact their lives. Even after recovery, it may be even longer before the patient can return to a completely active lifestyle.
You have not yet reached menopause. When you lose your ovaries as part of a hysterectomy, your hormonal balance gets disrupted. This makes your estrogen and progesterone production decline. These two hormones play an important part in heart, bone, breast, and brain health. Even when an ovary-sparing hysterectomy is performed, the patient is more likely to develop premature ovarian function failure.
You wish to avoid the risks of surgery. Infections affect approximately 9 to 13 percent of those who undergo a hysterectomy. There is also a risk of damaging surrounding organs, nerve damage, hemorrhage, and anesthetic complications.
You want to preserve your sex drive. Because of the sudden drop in estrogen, your sexual desire is likely to drop after a hysterectomy. Vaginal dryness can also be a problem after removing your uterus. Which means that, even if you’re in the mood, sex may be painful for you without lubrication. Plus, there are other, long-term effects of hysterectomy that can impact your mental and physical wellbeing.
Consider Uterine Fibroid Embolization
Uterine fibroid embolization is completed through local anesthesia and is significantly less invasive than a surgery and patients can return to their daily lives much faster than those who have undergone a hysterectomy. In addition, studies show that approximately 90 percent of women who underwent UFE had significant or complete relief from the symptoms of uterine fibroids.
You can use birth control with fibroids, but you may have to discuss options with your doctors. You see, uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors. Many women will be affected by fibroids in their life. Fibroids can develop in several different places in or on the uterus. Depending on where they develop, they will be classified as subserosal, intramural, or submucosal.
While no one knows exactly why these tumors develop, there are a few different theories. Things that impact growth in your body, such as insulin-like growth factor, may trigger fibroid growth. Extracellular matrix (ECM), a material that makes cells stick together, could also be involved. When you have fibroids, ECM increases and makes these tumors fibrous. But ECM also stores growth factors, and may trigger biologic changes in your cells, increasing risk of more fibroids.
Now, these are elements we don’t totally understand. But most doctors do agree that fibroid growth can be affected by the presence of estrogen. This may be why many women’s fibroids grow and develop during pregnancy. Because of the connection between estrogen and fibroid development, you may be wondering about birth control with fibroids, and how it will affect their growth? Here’s what you need to know about using birth control with fibroids.
How Will Oral Birth Control with Fibroids Affect Symptoms?
Your Periods Will Probably get Lighter
A common side effect of fibroids is long, heavy periods; using birth control pills may help manage this symptom. Birth control typically gives women lighter, shorter periods because the estrogen in the medications can help improve blood clotting and reduce your menstrual flow.
2. You May Have Fewer Cramps
Pelvic pain and cramps are another typical fibroid side effect—and these cramps can be quite severe for women dealing with these tumors. Many women on birth control pills experience cramping relief because the medications can decrease a woman’s prostaglandin count (prostaglandins make the uterus contract, leading to cramps.)
3. Your Fibroids Could Get Bigger
While taking birth control may help you manage certain side effects of fibroids, there’s a caveat: fibroids are very responsive to estrogen, which means that taking birth control can actually make your tumors grow larger. For this reason, you’ll need to discuss your options with your doctors carefully. A larger fibroid tumor may cause you to experience a worsening of symptoms, canceling out the temporary relief delivered by the estrogen in your birth control pills.
4. Birth Control Can Help Prevent Fibroids
If you already have uterine fibroids, taking birth control could make your tumors increase in size. But if you haven’t yet been diagnosed, certain birth controls (especially those with lower doses of estrogen) may reduce your fibroid risk!
Can I Implant an IUD with Fibroids?
If oral contraceptives aren’t your best choice, you may be interested in an IUD (intrauterine device) birth control with fibroids. This is a small device which gets implanted into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs come in two forms: hormonal and non-hormonal, and the type you choose will make a difference in your fibroid experience. Let’s explore the differences between the two types of IUDs.
Hormonal vs. Non-Hormonal IUD
Hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by release synthetic hormones to thins your uterine lining, thicken your cervical mucus. They also partially prevent you from ovulating. In contrast, non-hormonal IUDs release copper into your uterus. And that coppers creates an inflammatory reaction within your uterus, which results in an environment in which sperm can’t survive.
Now that you understand how IUDs work, let’s explore if they work for women with fibroids. And here’s the story: sometimes they do. But sometimes, if your fibroids have changed the shape of your uterus, you won’t be able to use and IUD. In those cases, then, you’ll want to explore alternative methods of birth control. If, however, you’re a good candidate for an IUD, you’ll need to choose between a hormonal or non-hormonal device.
Should I get a Hormonal IUD with Fibroids?
For many women with fibroids, using a hormonal IUD will relieve your symptoms. That’s especially true for heavy periods, since this kind of IUD gives you a thinner uterine lining. Also, since you’ll lose less blood each month with a hormonal IUD, you’re anemia risk will be lower. If you were already anemic, your symptoms should improve.
Hormonal IUDs may also reduce painful cramping, since your uterine lining cells release the chemicals which cause this symptom. Basically, a thinner lining means less blood loss and less materials to cause cramps. Which means if you’re suffering from these fibroid symptoms, you may benefit from a hormonal IUD. Except, of course, in one instance. Keep reading to find out when you shouldn’t use a hormonal IUD.
Could Hormonal IUDs Make my Fibroids Worse?
Let’s be clear: we don’t know what causes fibroids to develop or grow larger. But we do suspect that there’s a link between hormones and fibroid growth. In other words, there’s a chance that implanting a hormonal IUD could cause your fibroids to grow larger.
If that possibility makes you nervous, we completely understand. Just know that you can still use an IUD for birth control. In this case, you’d just opt for a non-hormonal IUD. But, keep in mind, while this IUD effectively prevents pregnancy, it won’t do anything to improve your fibroid symptoms. In fact, some women using non-hormonal IUDs report heavier bleeding and cramps. Obviously, you’ll need to think carefully about your options before selecting a non-hormonal IUD.
And, before choosing either type of IUD, keep in mind that your fibroids will increase your risk for IUD expulsion, which occurs when your device falls fully or partially out of your uterus. If you partially expel your IUD, you’ll need to consult your doctor about safe removal, and likely move on to another form of birth control once your situation is resolved.
Choosing the right birth control when you have fibroids can be complicated, so it’s crucial to review all your options with your fibroid specialist. But please remember, while birth control may alleviate fibroid symptoms, it can’t “cure” or eliminate your actual fibroids. That will only be possible with fibroid treatment. So, feel free to reach out to Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee to schedule a consultation on all your fibroid treatment options. And, in light of the current COVID-19 outbreak, rest assured you can choose to schedule a remote, Telemedicine fibroid consultation.
Black women and fibroids just seem to go together. About 80% of all black women develop fibroids by the time they hit their 50s. In comparison, only 70% of white women will get these tumors in their lifetime. This means that the rate of fibroid development is much higher among black women, but that’s not the only concern.
Here’s another issue: black women are two to three times more likely to develop fibroids. And black women are three times more likely than white women to be hospitalized for fibroid complications. Which is why many women impacted by these benign tumors are taking steps to raise fibroid awareness. And to help other black women gain the information needed to receive high-quality fibroid care, that doesn’t always involve a hysterectomy. Today, we salute two of those women as our Women Crushes of the Week.
For Black Women and Fibroids: the Fibroid Pandemic
When LaToya. Dwight was diagnosed with fibroids, her doctors offered a hysterectomy. But, as she explained in a recent interview, “I did not know what fibroids were, and was not given any resources… That did not sit well with me and made me do my research.”
Thankfully, that research led her to lifestyle changes, and a less invasive treatment option. Following her decision, she said, “I realized that a lot of women do not know where to turn because they are typically given the recommendation of having a hysterectomy. And while there is nothing wrong with having one, statistically, 60% of hysterectomies are not needed.” To help fill that information gap, she started the Fibroid Pandemic platform.
Among other resources, Dwight shares information that will help Black women address fibroid symptoms holistically. Specifically, she helps target factors that may be responsible for Black women’s increased fibroid risks. One key lifestyle change she advocates? Changing cosmetics brands. Especially hair care products, since many products marketed for black hair care contain strong chemicals that have been linked to increased fibroid risk. This is very important information, as are the tips our next #WCW shares through her platforms.
Meet The Black Woman “Fibroid Queen”
Registered nurse and fitness trainer Phyllis Frempong expressed concern about Black women’s healthcare equality: “Black women are last when learning the information needed to maximize our options. In the medical system, it has been this way for a long time. It has been set up for us to be at a disadvantage; therefore, we are required to educate and empower ourselves to stay abreast of what is going on.”
She uses her Instagram platform to advocate fibroid fighting fitness routines. As we know, maintaining a healthy weight can help minimize fibroid symptoms and growth, likely because carrying extra pounds can mess with your hormones.
Still, Ms. Frempong knows that talking fibroids isn’t easy. She says, “I grew up in an African household, so talking about medical issues was not encouraged. I remember my mom coming home really drained and tired, and asking her what happened. After initially dismissing me, she later said that her doctor informed her that she would need to get her uterus taken out. I asked why and she said that was fibroids. I did not quite know what fibroids were, I just remembered the name. So, years later, while in nursing school, I asked the doctor for an ultrasound and was questioned. When in a situation like this, always go with your instincts. Something told me to request it, and after finding a quarter-sized fibroid on my uterus, I was told to just monitor it.”
The Growth Cycle Continues
She did just that, but she developed more fibroids, like so many black women with fibroids. And they grew large. Frempong says she felt like a failure, because she’d waited around for things to get worse. All without knowing steps that could help stop her fibroids’ progression.
Today, she’s protecting other women from the same experience. She says, “I used what I learned as a nurse and fitness coach and created a lifestyle regiment to not only reduce my symptoms but shrink my fibroids. I realized that if I could do that, then I could help others. So now, my mission is to help millions of women end their suffering with holistic resources and a community of like-minded women to live their lives beyond fibroids.”
Minimally Invasive Fibroid Treatment
In our Houston area fibroid practice, we also work hard to share information about treatment options. We want women to know that hysterectomy isn’t always the answer. That’s part of why we share women’s fibroid stories. And it’s why we always offer patient education regarding Uterine Fibroid Embolization, or UFE, a non-surgical fibroid treatment.
We also know that UFE isn’t for everyone. And that’s ok. Our only goal is to make sure all women know that they have choices. So, if you want to explore minimally invasive fibroid treatments, we are here to help. Check out our guidelines to see if you’re a UFE candidate. And feel free to schedule an in-office or Telemedicine consultation with our team of specialists.
When it comes to your health, it’s important to know your fibroid risk–plus what it means for your health if you get this diagnosis. Many women have heard about fibroids (benign tumors that develop in or on a woman’s uterus) but don’t know much more than the name. Here is our quick cheat sheet for really understanding these tumors:
What’s Your Fibroid Risk?
Before we get started, we have to be clear: we still don’t the exact reason why women get fibroids. But, thanks to recent studies, we do have a clearer picture of what raises women’s fibroid risk.
First, we know that race plays a major role in your fibroid risk. While any woman can develop fibroids, the ones at highest risk: have a family history, are Black or Hispanic, and/or have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). In fact, according to a recent study in the BJOG Journal, black women have a two-threefold higher fibroid risk. That’s why about 70% of black women develop fibroids, according to the study. And it may be why European women have a lower fibroid risk than women in the U.S.: the racial mix in populations is very different.
Still, as more Caucasian women present with elevated BMIs, their fibroid risk has also increased. And we know, thanks to this study, 11 other factors that increase your fibroid risk. These include your age (risk decreases as you get older), premenopausal state, hypertension, family history and the time since your last birth. (Having more full-term pregnancies seems to decreases your fibroid risk. Breastfeeding could also impact your fibroid risk. That’s because your ovarian hormones decrease when you nurse. ) Smoking or consuming certain food additives or soybean milk may also increase your chances of getting fibroids.
In some cases, the use of oral contraceptives or the injectable contraceptive depot medroxyprogesterone acetate increased your fibroid risk. That’s not necessarily surprising, since we know that two things make fibroids grow: hormones, especially estrogen, and blood supply.
If you are experiencing fibroid symptoms like heavy periods, pelvic pain, incontinence or constipation, your doctor may check you for fibroids. Usually, you’ll be diagnosed with a pelvic exam and a pelvic sonogram. You may need a transvaginal sonogram to determine if the fibroid has affected your uterine lining.
As soon as you’ve been diagnosed, you’ll need to consider your treatment options. And remember that you do have options: not all fibroid diagnoses will end in surgery. In fact, there are minimally invasive fibroid treatments that can help you find relief. But the option you choose will largely depend on the type of symptoms you’re currently experiencing.
How will Fibroids Impact my Life?
Once you know you have fibroids, you have lots of options. If you aren’t bothered by symptoms, you may just monitor the tumor(s). With fibroids that are small, birth control, diet and exercise may keep them from causing you pain. But if pregnancy is important to you, the location of your fibroids will also be important. Fibroids that grow in the uterine cavity or block the fallopian tubes may affect your fertility.
If symptoms or infertility send you in search of relief, it’s important to research all your treatment options. While some doctors may recommend surgery (myomectomy or hysterectomy), we like to explore less invasive options. To learn more about non-surgical fibroid treatments schedule a consult today with our Houston area fibroid experts.
It’s really hard to find equal fibroid care for black women. That’s something Kimberly Wilson, our Woman Crush Wednesday nominee, learned the hard way. But, after her healthcare struggle, she’s making it easier to find equal care for black women. And, together with efforts from other groups, Wilson is leveling the playing healthcare playing field. Which is why we’re sharing her story today, and naming her our #WCW, woman crush of the week.
Getting a Fibroid Diagnosis
In 2017, Wilson was diagnosed with fibroids. But, even though she had many fibroid symptoms, getting that diagnosis was really hard. She told Essence magazine, “Over a period of six months, I visited four different providers—all of whom were White men. Two completely dismissed my pain and trauma, while the other two stated that a hysterectomy was my only option. It wasn’t until finding a Black physician—over 100 miles away, that I received the culturally competent care that I needed and deserved.”
After her experience, Wilson wanted to make it easier for women of color to access quality healthcare. And part of that, she realized, meant these women needed help finding culturally sensitive healthcare providers.
That’s when she created HUED, a website that connects patients with medical professionals that specifically understand their cultural, physical and mental-health needs. Her goal? To help people of color access healthcare providers they could trust. Physicians who would listen to their needs. And never dismiss their reports of painful symptoms.
Today, that platform is helping black women access equal fibroid care. And care for many other health conditions. So we applaud Wilson’s efforts. Plus, we’re happy to report, she’s not alone in this fight.
Say Goodbye Fibroids
The White Dress Project, one of our favorite organizations, is also joining the fight. They’ve partnered with Acessa Health Inc. on the Goodbye Fibroids initiative. It’s goal? To unite women, doctors and political leaders in raising awareness of and improving care for women living with fibroids.
They’ve made presentations at the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference. And they’ve spent time discussing how women of different races don’t receiving the same quality of fibroid care.
As Acessa Health CEO Kim Rodriguez noted, “Unfortunately, there is a well-established racial barrier to women receiving less invasive alternatives to hysterectomy.”
In other words, black women have a much higher risk of developing fibroids. But they are much less likely to receive information about the full range of fibroid treatment options. Especially about minimally invasive procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization.
The facts are clear (and upsetting.) Among women who treated their fibroids with hysterectomies, African American women were less likely to receive a minimally invasive surgery compared to white women. They were also 40% more likely to develop complications. And nearly three times as likely to have an extended hospital stay. Plus, three times as likely to die after their procedures.
While these are statistics for hysterectomies, they don’t even begin to explore other fibroid treatment options. Which likely means that women aren’t even being informed about hysterectomy alternatives. In other words, equal fibroid care for black women is still a distant dream.
Working to Create Equal Fibroid Care for Black Women
Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project, also spoke to the Black Caucus. She said, “As a community we need to begin to address and change the clear, systematic and structural defect within the US healthcare system. [It] disproportionately pushes women of color toward the most invasive option, which is hysterectomy.”
As interventional radiologists in Houston, we stand with Wilson and Valbrun. We want all women to know their fibroid treatment options. And we want black women to get equal care and attention from fibroid specialists.
To help that cause, we promote #FibroidFix. This is a campaign to make all women aware of all the available treatment options for fibroids. Particularly the ones that preserve their fertility and minimize the risk of surgical complications. Will you join us in spreading the word?
Hysterectomy causes major side effects, and they aren’t just menopause and infertility. Now, many women with fibroids think they need a hysterectomy—a surgical removal of the uterus. And some are told it’s the only way to relieve fibroid symptoms. But there are less invasive treatments available, like uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). This is a problem because, no matter what the reason, women who undergo hysterectomies face major surgery complications. And now, studies show that hysterectomy side effects may include mental and physical health struggles. We’ve already explored how hysterectomy side effects damage your heart health. So, today, we’ll explore this surgery impacts your memory and your anxiety levels.
How a Hysterectomy can Hurt Your Mental Health
Women’s risk for anxiety and depression increase after hysterectomy, according to a study in the journal Menopause.
To reach this conclusion, researchers reviewed the medical records of 2,094 hysterectomy patients. For this study, none of those women had cancer. Next, they compared the records to those of same-aged women who hadn’t had a hysterectomy. And then they followed both groups for 22 years.
As it turns out, woman’s risk for depression relatively increased by 26 percent with hysterectomy. And the risk for anxiety increased by 22 percent after hysterectomy. Researchers discovered that age matters, too. In young women, who had a hysterectomy before 35, there was a 47 percent increased risk for depression. Also, the anxiety risk increased by 45 percent. Outside of cancer, the reason for the hysterectomy didn’t seem to impact the increased risk of mental health issues.
According to lead study author, Dr. Shannon K. Laughlin-Tommaso, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Mayo Clinic, “Hysterectomy is right for some women. But there is this 4 to 6 percent of women who will be affected by depression or anxiety. We’re hoping women will talk with their doctors and see if there’s any alternative they could use instead.”
Uterine Surgery May Interfere with Memory
Depression isn’t the only way hysterectomy may affect your brain function. According to a pre-human trial from Arizona State University, a hysterectomy could impact your memory. Now, if that sounds strange, it is. But here’s what we know: your ovaries and brain are connected. So your estrogen and progesterone levels impact your memory. But we now know that your uterus is tied to your autonomic nervous system. Which means that losing your uterus could affect your cognitive ability.
In order to illustrate this fact, Dr. Heather Bimonte-Nelson studied rats before and after a hysterectomy. Allowing for 6 weeks of recovery time, the study tested their post-hysterectomy working memory. And here’s the bad news: after hysterectomy, rats couldn’t navigate a maze they used to complete. In comparison, rats who kept their uterus had no problem finishing the maze. In other words, losing their uterus directly impacted rat memory. Clearly, this study has troubling implications for human females.
UFE: The non-surgical fibroid treatment option
Thankfully, many women with fibroids can find a non-surgical alternative to hysterectomy in our Houston-area practice. Using imagine, catheters and an injection, we are able to cut off blood flow to your fibroids, which makes them shrink and, eventually, disappear. It’s a minimally invasive procedure, usually not involving a hospital stay.
If you have fibroids and are concerned about having a hysterectomy, reach out to our doctors. We can help you determine if UFE is the right treatment option for you.