Category: Treatment Options

Reality Check: When is Hysterectomy Necessary?

As we’ve shared previously on the blog, many women in this country have hysterectomies they don’t need. Since a hysterectomy–the complete removal of a woman’s uterus–is a really big deal, that’s scary news. But are there cases when hysterectomies are a must? Let’s take a closer look! 

What’s a Hysterectomy?  Even with multiple fibroids, hysterectomy can be avoided

As we said, a hysterectomy is an operation to remove a woman’s uterus. Oophorectomy is a process where the ovaries are removed. When only the fallopian tubes are removed, the process is called salpingectomy. The uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries are removed in a hysterectomy with a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.

There are partial, total or radical hysterectomies. Partial hysterectomies leave your cervix remains in place. Total hysterectomies remove the whole uterus and cervix. Radical hysterectomies remove the whole uterus, including its tissue and its sides, the cervix and the top part of your vagina. 

When Do You NEED a Hysterectomy?

Hysterectomies are appropriate responses to life-threatening conditions. Radical hysterectomies are often given to women with cancers of the uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix or vagina. It may be necessary if a woman’s uterus ruptures during childbirth, or if her post-delivery bleeding is life threatening. In some cases, women with severe PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) will need this surgery. 

So, that’s when you really need a hysterectomy. But there are other times when hysterectomies are also considered. Many women with fibroids and endometriosis are told they need to remove their uterus to get relief. And, while this may sometimes be true, other women can avoid this major surgery with less invasive treatment options. In our opinions, as Houston fibroid specialists, if there are treatments that could help women avoid hysterectomies, that should be the first line of defense. Except in cases of emergency, hysterectomies should be the last option your physician recommends. 

#WCW: Tanika Gray Valburn

It’s #WomanCrushWednesday! Today, we honor Tamika Gray Valburn, founder of The White Dress Project. For years, Tanika suffered from fibroids .  She saw her mom lose two sets of twins due to her own fibroids, but didn’t make the connection to her own diagnosis right away! 

In fact, Valburn didn’t officially get a fibroid diagnosis until her late teens, even though she experienced painful symptoms. “You just think it will skip a generation,” she recently revealed in an interview. “When you’re young, you’re not thinking it will be your story as well.” But, like so many women, Valburn discovered that fibroids do tend to run in families. 

And, because her fibroids caused such heavy periods, Valburn said, ““I’ve had to learn how to pad myself [to keep from leaking through clothes.] I know the whole formula—what kind of underwear to wear, what kind of tights, what kind of Spanx. I’ve tried and tested everything. It’s become a way of life.”

Eventually, Tanika surgically removed 27 fibroids from her uterus. After her recovery, she wanted to help other women. In 2014, Tanika convinced a Georgia state representative to officially declare July as Fibroid Awareness Month, helping women get the crucial health information they need.

But she didn’t stop there. Tanika realized that she’d never bought white clothing. She said, “It’s a simple thing. Like, who cares, why not just wear black? But I love clothes, and the fact that I had to sacrifice wearing white for these benign tumors—I wasn’t feeling it.”

The White Dress Project


That same year, Tanika founded the White Dress Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting fibroids awareness, supporting research, and bringing together a community of women who work to empower one another.  The white dress became their symbol, as it signified a milestone in Tanika’s recovery – the moment she could rock a white dress without any fear. Now, the white dress has become a symbol of strength and power to other women dealing with fibroids, becoming one step in the fight to take control of their menstrual health issues.

As doctors involved in the daily battle against fibroids, we salute Tanika, our forever #WCW. We invite all women who are dealing with fibroids to slip on their white dresses and take control of their health by learning more about UFE, a minimally invasive treatment for fibroids!

70% of Hysterectomies Are Avoidable!

According to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology,  400,000  women in the U.S. get hysterectomies each year. Sadly, up to 70% of those surgeries were likely avoidable (other treatments could have been offered.) Many women with fibroids have learned this the hard way. All too often, they’re told hysterectomies are the only way to alleviate fibroid symptoms, when relief is available with less invasive treatment options. Now, we want to help make sure women know about the alternatives! 

Hysterectomies Aren’t the Only Option for Fibroid Treatments Hysterectomy alternatives

While some women may need a hysterectomy to treat their fibroids, others can be helped with medication, less invasive surgeries like 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 feeding a woman’s tumors. Soon, they ‘starve’ and shrink, all without a traumatic surgical procedure or hospital stay and 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.”

In short, there too many women who think fibroid diagnoses necessitate hysterectomies. Will you help us spread the word about alternative treatments? Just share this article  with the hashtag #FibroidFix. Together, we can help women avoid invasive, life-altering surgeries!

Sources: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, U.S. News & World Report 

4 Facts about Birth Control & Fibroids

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, most doctors agree that their 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 how  birth control will impact your fibroids. Here are four things you should know about birth control and fibroids. 

  1. 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!

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. Feel free to reach out to Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee to schedule a consultation on all your fibroid treatment options.

Sources: fibroids.com

Adenomyosis vs. Endometriosis: Learn the Differences

If you experience painful periods, heavy bleeding, and chronic pelvic pain, your symptoms could mean you have fibroids. But there are two other diagnoses that might apply: endometriosis, a condition in which endometrial tissue leaves your uterus and implants in other parts of the body. When you start your period, this rogue endometrial tissue sheds as well, causing you to bleed in your pelvis and beyond. This bleeding can leave you with cysts, scar tissue, and adhesions.

Adenomyosis also causes these kinds of symptoms, but it is a separate condition. With adenomyosis, endometrial tissue lodges itself deep in the muscle of the uterus. It does not leave the uterus.  

While initial symptoms seem to be similar, there are several ways in which these conditions affect you differently.

Distinguishing Symptoms of Adenomyosis

As we mentioned, both endometriosis and adenomyosis leave women with pelvic pain and heavy bleeding. What’s different is the timing of that discomfort: women with adenomyosis usually experience that pain around their periods. Women with endometriosis have period pain, but often also experience pain with bowel movements and at other times in their cycle.

Differing Diagnosis Methods

Endometriosis can be tough to diagnose, which is why many women can only confirm they have this condition after laparoscopic surgery (a doctors insert a thin tube with a light and camera into a small incision in your stomach. This tube lets them see the lesions, cysts, and adhesions that confirm this condition.)

In contrast, women with adenomyosis can usually receive their diagnosis with an MRI or transvaginal ultrasound. These minimally invasive tools can also confirm the scope of your condition: if you have just a few cysts in your uterus, your adenomyosis is considered focal. If the tissue is widespread within your uterus, you will be diagnosed as having diffuse adenomyosis.

Treating Adenomyosis: UAE Can Help

For both endometriosis and adenomyosis, there are a wide variety of treatment options. These include options as simple as birth control pills to an array of surgeries, some as serious as hysterectomy.

Hysterectomy is the only cure for these conditions, but other options can help control your symptoms. For women with adenomyosis, there is a newer treatment available: UAE, or Uterine Artery Embolization. With UAE, particles are injected into the uterine artery to block the blood flow to the specific problem area in your uterus. The goal is to deprive the tissue of both blood and oxygen, so your condition will abate. The procedure involves an overnight stay in the hospital.

Our doctors use three types of particles: smaller, normal and larger particles. This new protocol has increased UAE’s effectiveness rate to 80%. For this reason, UAE seems to be an excellent short term treatment option for many women.

Speak to your doctor today to learn about the best treatment options for your adenomyosis. To speak with one of our doctors, please give us a call anytime at 713-575-3686.

 

Sources: Health.com

 

3 Things you Need to Know About Hysterectomies

Many women with fibroids and adenomyosis are told they must undergo a hysterectomy (the complete removal of the uterus.) In many cases, other treatment options are actually available, so it’s important to research all your treatment options. After all, 44% of Americans don’t know what’s really involved in this procedure. So, if you are seriously considering surgery, here are three important things you need to know about hysterectomies: UAE treatment for Adenomyosis

  1. There’s more than one type of hysterectomy. In fact, there are 3 kinds:
    Supraservial (only the upper portion of your uterus is removed.)
    Total (the entire uterus and cervix are removed.)
    Radical (your uterus, its side tissue, cervix, and upper portion of your vagina are removed. This is usually only done for cancer patients.)
  2. A hysterectomy comes with a serious recovery period. Because hysterectomy is a surgical procedure, you will need to stay in the hospital, likely for at least 24 hours, afterwards. Many women will be unable to drive for at least two weeks following a hysterectomy. And most women will have to refrain from heavy lifting, bending over, sex and exercise for at least six weeks after surgery. For all of these reasons, you need to carefully consider your options before undergoing hysterectomy: there are less invasive options, like myomectomy or uterine fibroid embolization, that can help manage symptoms of certain conditions, like fibroids. 
  3. Hysterectomies come with long term health complications. Not only will a hysterectomy permanently end your chances of becoming pregnant, this surgery comes with other risks. Young women who have hysterectomies are at higher risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease, just to name a few health concerns. It is not a treatment decision to be made lightly, as you will feel the impact of this surgery for years to come. 

Now that you are armed with the facts about hysterectomies, it’s time to get educated about alternative treatments. To find out if you are a good candidate for our minimally invasive fibroid treatments, feel free to schedule a consult with our Houston-area specialists. 

Sources: hysterectomy.org, hancockregionalhospital.org

Fibroids 101: The Risks, Diagnoses and Effects

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: 

Who is At Risk for Fibroids?

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). As more Caucasian women present with elevated BMIs, their fibroid risk has also increased. While we still don’t know exactly why fibroids develop, we know two things make them grow: hormones, especially estrogen, and blood supply. For this reason, we can often control fibroid growth with birth control pills. And, we can shrink the tumors by cutting off their blood supply using a procedure called UFE (uterine fibroid embolization.)

How Can I Confirm my Fibroid Diagnosis?

If you are experiencing 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.

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 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

#WCW: A Wife’s Take on Fibroid Sex

When you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, symptoms can take a toll: on your health and your relationships. Treatments can help alleviate symptoms, but sometimes so can talking. That’s why, this week, we salute Gwen Tyler as our #Woman Crush. She and hubby Wayne recently opened up about the impact of Gwen’s fibroids on their sex life. We’re sharing her story here to help other couples feel less alone, and to illustrate how the Wayne’s found their way to relief. 

Reaching a Fibroid Diagnosis Results after UFE

Before Gwen knew her condition, she and Wayne knew something was wrong. Wayne explained in an Ask4UFE interview, “Something was wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it. She was having irregular periods. We found out she had fibroids during a discussion with [the gynecologist]. For me to watch her go through this was painful because you want to help but you don’t know what to do.”

Once they knew what was wrong, the Tylers still faced intimate challenges. As Gwen explained, ““Sexually, there was no sex, to be quite honest. I was bleeding so much and [my husband] was so concerned about it. He was very patient with me, but it made me feel really bad as a wife that I couldn’t take care of him the way that he needed to be taken care of. It really affected my marriage.”

Intimacy After Fibroids

After getting diagnosed, the Tylers knew that Gwen would seek treatment. They had been hoping to have a family, and her symptoms were making that difficult. As a couple, they researched treatment options together, learning there was more to fibroid treatments than just hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus.) One of the options they discovered made sense: uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). The Waynes learned that this minimally-invasive treatment could alleviate Gwen’s symptoms without surgery–or a hospital stay. 

Now, they are encouraging other couples to do their research: and to keep the lines of communication open. As Wayne says, “Husbands and partners who are going through this—the more you know about the condition the better. It helps you to understand and have compassion.”

As for Gwen? She’s happy to be on the road to recovery, and grateful to her supportive husband, who she calls, “her biggest strength and support.” And for her strength in sharing her story with fellow fibroid sufferers? She’s earned a spot in our #WCW hall of fame! 

Sources: ask4ufe.com

3 Reasons to Choose UFE Over Surgery

When you have uterine fibroids, it’s important to explore all your treatment options. Many women with fibroids are told they need a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus), but they could still find relief with myomectomy (surgical removal of the tumor) or uterine fibroid embolization (a minimally invasive treatment protocol that blocks blood flow to your fibroids, causing them to shrink.) 

While hysterectomy is a drastic surgery, some women may be confused abut which of the two less invasive treament options would be their best choice. Now, new research is giving women two important reasons to choose UFE. 

3 Main Advantages of Uterine Fibroid Embolization 

According to research conducted by Dr. Jemianne Bautista-Jia, UFE may be more effective than myomectomy at relieving fibroid symptoms. The study discovered these three advantages: 

  1. Women with UFE were less likely to need secondary procedures than women who had myomectomy
  2. Women were less likely to need a blood transfusion after UFE than following surgery
  3. Women whose fibroids caused heavy menstrual bleeding experienced better relief with UFE than with myomectomy

While the study did note that more women became pregnant after myomectomy than after UFE, all other findings pointed women towards greater relief with UFE. Dr. Bautista-Jia, in presenting the findings wanted women with fibroids to take away his message: if heavy bleeding is your main fibroid symptom, UFE is the way to go. She also suggested that all women with symptomatic fibroids should explore UFE as a great treatment option. 

Want more info on UFE? Reach out and schedule a consultation with our Houston area fibroid specialists. 

Sources: evtoday.com, Society of Interventional Radiology

#WCW: Raquel K Finds an Alternative to Fibroid Surgery

Many times, we feature celebrity fibroid warriors as our Woman Crush Wednesday, but this week we get to draw from our own patient pool. A few months ago, we welcomed Raquel K. to our Houston area fibroid practice; as she explains, she came to us because she was, “looking for an alternative to having surgery due to fibroids.”

Like many African American women, Raquel was diagnosed with fibroids and was facing scary treatment options like surgical removal of her tumors or even of her uterus (hysterectomy.) When she discovered our practice and scheduled her first appointment, she says, “Dr. Fox and his team took time to explain the UFE procedure and made me feel very comfortable.” UFE (Uterine Fibroid Embolization) is an alternative treatment for fibroids that is minimally invasive and is performed as an out-patient procedure. Our doctors insert a catheter through our patient’s femoral artery, in your upper thigh. Next, we guide the catheter to the uterine artery until we get close to your fibroid tumor. Finally, we inject an embolic substance into the catheter. The embolic material is designed to block the vessels around the fibroid, depriving it of the blood and oxygen it needs to grow. The blood and oxygen deprivation results in the shrinking of your fibroids, and the embolic material remains permanently in the blood vessels at the fibroid site. 

After Raquel successfully underwent her UFE procedure, she turned to our practice Facebook page to share her story, helping other patients learn about UFE. In telling her fellow fibroid patients, “My quality of life has improved greatly since my UFE and I am very happy with my results,” she’s helping spread the word about this alternative #FibroidFix. And, in our well-versed hashtag books, that earns her a spot on the #WCW list, as well!