Category: Treatment Options

Birth Control and Fibroids: What You Need to Know

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that affect many women throughout their lifetime.  Fibroids can develop in several different places in or on the uterus, and will be classified as  as subserosal, intramural, or submucosal depending on where they develop. While no one knows exactly why these tumors develop, most doctors agree that their growth can be affected by the presence of estrogen, which may be why many women’s fibroids grow and develop during pregnancy. Because estrogen likely affects fibroid development, many women will wonder how taking birth control will impact their fibroid growth and development. Here are four things women with fibroids should know about their birth control:

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.

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.)

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.

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.

Talking to Your Partner About Fibroids

Results after UFEWhen you have fibroids, sex with your partner can hurt. This is especially true if you have large and or numerous fibroids. Not surprisingly, this pain may make you less excited about sex—you may want to stop having intercourse altogether. In other instances, pain may not be the only problem. Depending on the size or location of your fibroid, these tumors may make you appear to have gained weight, or even look slightly pregnant, possibly impacting your self-esteem and feelings of attractiveness.

If your partner feels personally rejected because he or she doesn’t understand what you’re going through, the change in intimacy may become a source of conflict, If, however, you are able to have an open, honest discussion about uterine fibroids and painful intercourse, you’ll help your partner understand what you’re experiencing, and hopefully become intimate together on an even deeper level.

Painful Intercourse with Uterine Fibroids

Every woman has different fibroid symptoms, but extremely painful sex is often associated with fibroids. That pain may be caused by pressure from the fibroids, vaginal dryness, or even hormonal changes. Even harder to explain to your partner? Your fibroid pain likely isn’t consistent. Certain positions, and certain times in the month, will affect the discomfort you experience, but this can also make it harder for your partner to know how best to approach intimacy.

4 Tips to Use When Discussing Fibroids and Sex with Your Partner

It’s important to remember: your partner might not understand what you’re dealing with or why you’re avoiding getting physical—that’s why open communication is crucial. Explain to your partner what you feel during sex, or if you’re just anxious about sex in general. Tell your partner how you are feeling, and make sure you discuss his or her feelings, too.

We know that talking about sex and intimacy can be uncomfortable, so we’re here to help. Here are a few suggestions for making this conversation a little less difficult to jump into:

Before you sit down to talk, do your research: Your partner will probably have lots of questions about your fibroid diagnosis and how it will continue to affect your body. To give the most effective and honest answers, be prepared with knowledge. Your fibroid specialists should be happy to help you with this portion of your experience.

Once you know enough about your condition, it’s time to get talking. You should: 

  1. Choose the ‘when’ wisely: Don’t start a conversation when either of you is upset or short on time. Make a date to sit down and talk, letting your partner know you want to discuss your health in a private, relaxed setting.
  2. Open Up: Be as real as possible about all the symptoms you are experiencing. Then you and your partner can try to determine the best way to help manage your symptoms and support you through your experiences.
  3. See the Other Side: Of course, you are the one dealing with a serious medical condition, but it’s important to recognize that your partner may be frightened as well. Make sure to really listen to what your partner is feeling or experiencing in the wake of your diagnosis.
    Moving forward: Fibroid Treatments

While there are several surgical treatments available for uterine fibroids, women who eventually wish to become pregnant may prefer a non-surgical treatment that won’t impact the uterus. While it’s important to review all treatment options with your doctor, make sure that you and your health care provider discuss Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), one alternative to surgery.

During UFE, a thin catheter is threaded into the blood vessels that feed the fibroid. Then, tiny, medical-grade plastic particles are injected into the blood vessels, blocking the blood supply and causing the fibroid to shrink and die.

Ideal UFE candidates:

  • Have fibroids that are causing heavy bleeding. 
  • Have fibroids that are causing pain or pressing on the bladder or rectum. 
  • Don’t want to have a hysterectomy. 
  • Don’t want to have children in the future

 

According to recent studies, one year after having UFE, women with painful uterine fibroids saw an improvement in their sex lives and significant symptom relief a year. To learn if you’re a candidate for UFE, we invite you to schedule a consultation at our Houston Fibroids office.

Can I Slow Down Fibroid Growth?

Many women with fibroids have questions: why did I get this kind of tumor? How fast will it grow? What can I do to slow down or stop the growth in my fibroids?

While we don’t know what causes women to develop fibroids, we do have an understanding of what these tumors are and what factors may increase your risk of developing fibroids. We also know certain factors that affect fibroid growth. To help you gain a better understanding, let’s start at the beginning, with a basic explanation of fibroids.

This x-ray reveals a fairly large uterine fibroid

What are Fibroids? 

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in the wall of your uterus. Fibroids can grow alone or in clusters; they vary in size, from microscopically small to rare cases where they grow to the size of fully-developed fetus.

Fibroid symptoms can include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Painful periods
  • Bloating in the pelvic region
  • Lower back pain
  • Painful sex
  • Frequent need to pee

What Can Speed Up Fibroid Growth?
While your genes will play a role in how quickly fibroids grow, hormones like estrogen and progesterone also affect the growth of these tumors. Without these two hormones, fibroids are unable to grow which is why, in the past, causing a woman to experience menopause was considered the only cure for fibroids. Thankfully, we now know better and can offer women less dramatic treatment options. 

How Big Will My Fibroids Become?

It’s difficult to know how big a fibroid tumor will become–growth varies from person to person, predict how big a fibroid will grow or what causes a fibroid to grow rapidly. In some cases, fibroids even disappear without treatment. This however, is not common: most fibroids will grow larger unless you opt for medical intervention. 

So, just how big will your fibroids become? Honestly, the size limit is based only on your body’s ability to expand. Fibroids can stretch and enlarge your uterus to accommodate their own growth. In fact, some fibroids get so big that you appear to be in the second trimester of pregnancy! 

In extreme cases, fibroids will grow so large that doctors can only treat them with surgery. For this reason, it’s important to begin researching fibroid treatment options as soon as you receive a diagnosis. 

Can I Slow Down Fibroid Growth?
Certain steps, like adopting  a fibroid-friendly diet, may slow the growth of these tumors. Research suggests that dairy products like milk, cheese and ice cream may inhibit fibroid development. Green tea has also been shown to slow fibroid growth and, in some cases, even kill off existing fibroid cells. 

For some women, the hormones in certain forms of birth control can help slow fibroid development. 

When it comes to interventions that simply slow down fibroid development, there are no guarantees…that’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that we have better treatment options available. Instead of slowing fibroid growth, interventional radiologists like Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee are able to use a method known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization to cut off the fibroid’s supply of blood and oxygen. This minimally invasive treatment causes fibroids to shrink and, eventually, die. Want to know if you’re a good candidate for UFE? Just reach out to our Houston area team and we’ll be happy to set you up with a comprehensive consultation. 

Women Demand Equal Fibroid Care

Together with Acessa Health Inc., the White Dress Project has launched the Goodbye Fibroids initiative to unite women, doctors and political leaders in order to raise awareness of and improve care for women living with fibroids.  

Recently, the two groups made a presentation at the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference to discuss how women of different races are not receiving the same quality of fibroid care. As Acessa Health CEO Kim Rodriguez pointed out, “Unfortunately, there is a well-established racial barrier to women receiving less invasive alternatives to hysterectomy.” In other words, though black women have a much higher risk of developing these non-cancerous uterine tumors, they are much less likely to receive information about the full range of fibroid treatment options, including minimally invasive procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization.

The facts are clear (and upsetting): among women who elected to have hysterectomies to treat their fibroids, 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, nearly three times as likely to have an extended hospital stay, and 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.

Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project, told the Black Caucus, “As a community we need to begin to address and change the clear, systematic and structural defect within the US healthcare system that disproportionately pushes women of color toward the most invasive option, which is hysterectomy.”

As interventional radiologists in Houston, we could not agree more. We applaud the Goodbye Fibroids movement, and have ourselves been promoting #FibroidFix, a campaign to make all women aware of all the available treatment options for fibroids, particularly the ones that will preserve their fertility and minimize the risk of surgical complications. Will you join us in spreading the word? Please share this information with all your female friends and help us and the Goodbye Fibroids team make better healthcare accessible to every woman in this country.

#WCW: Helping Vanessa Beat her Fibroid Pain

In our fibroids practice, we strive to provide women with treatments that help them alleviate their pain and frustration without having to undergo surgery. What makes this mission so rewarding is hearing from our happy patients. Recently, one of our patients, Vanessa Williams, agreed to share her story of pain and recovery with other women in search of help with their fibroids. 

Vanessa’s Fibroid Story
Ms. Williams had been in pain and dealing with other complications when she was diagnosed with uterine fibroids. Still a young woman, she did not want to be treated with a hysterectomy (the surgical removal of her uterus), an option that would immediately send her into menopause. Yes, it would solve her fibroid problem, but it would also leave her facing a long and painful recovery. She knew there had to be a better option.

Doing her Research
Like so many of us do, Vanessa hit the internet in search of alternate treatment options for women with fibroids. Thankfully, during her search, Ms. Williams came across our Houston Fibroids Facebook page—and that’s when everything started to change.

On our page, she learned about Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) a non-invasive treatment option that could permanently shrink her tumors by cutting off their supply of blood and oxygen. She read first-hand accounts of women who’d had the procedure and whose lives had truly been changed by their ability to manage pain without undergoing a hysterectomy. She was convinced, and she came into our office.

Inside her Recovery
At our office, Vanessa met with Dr. Fox. At the initial consultation, during which she was determined to be a good candidate for UFE, Ms. William’s was able to ask all her questions and get immediate answers from our team of experts. She decided to go ahead with UFE and scheduled a procedure date.

After her treatment, during which a catheter was inserted into her arm to deliver embolizing materials to her fibroids, Vanessa was determined to return to our Facebook page and share her story in the hopes of helping other women find and learn about this alternative treatment option. She had the following words to share about her journey:

After the procedure, “It was very painful for about three days due to the cramping. I had meds but had a hard time taking them. However I am so thrilled after totally healing. I have so much energy!! My stomach shrank as well. So look into this if you suffer with fibroids. All of my female issues gradually started to leave. As of two weeks ago I’m 100 better totally free of those issues”

Find Your Fix
We are grateful to Vanessa for so generously sharing her story, and to all of our patients who have bravely opened up about the benefits of UFE, helping so many women learn about their options. For more information on UFE and other fibroid treatments, feel free to reach out to our office staff and team of physicians.  

WCW: Erin Robinson’s Fibroid Campaign

When Amazing Race and YouTube star Erin Robinson discovered her ongoing pain was being caused by 13 uterine fibroids, she knew she had to do something more than just get treatment for her condition: she had to take a stand for women’s health. After all, in her role as an on-air hostess for YouTube’s Clevver station, she and her team “produce 40 videos a week,” she says. Of course, the content she pushes professionally is usually funny, offering people an escape from their problems, Robinson knew she had a platform to help people dealing with the same kind of fibroid pain. And she knew she had to use it!  

Documenting Her Struggle Uterine Fibroids
Deciding to call her new video “It Gets Real,” (see the video at the end of the post) Erin begins her story by telling viewers: “I was suffering for a really long time.” From that moment of truth, she allowed the camera to follow her through the process of researching the best treatment for her condition. While she initially feared that she would lose her uterus to hysterectomy, Erin eventually found a doctor who treated her fibroids by shrinking them instead of removing the non-cancerous tumors. 

For Erin, the treatment plan was life changing. As she explains, “I felt better than I’ve ever felt before. I think you live with pain for so long — you self-medicate, you stretch, you workout, you do whatever you can — you start forgetting what being normal feels like.”

She decided to film her story (using an all female crew) and share it publicly for two reasons: to teach women about alternative fibroid treatments that avoid hysterectomies, and to remind women to see their doctors as soon as they start feeling unwell. At the time of her initial diagnosis, Erin explains, “I hadn’t been to an OBGYN in four years. And we talk about that in the show. Whenever I tell people that, they either say, ‘Wow, you should have really gone,’ or ‘I haven’t been either.’ I have friends who I tell this story to who have never been to a gynecologist. The more I talked about this, the more I found that women needed to hear this message.”

Spread the Word on #FibroidFix
In our Houston fibroid practice, we also offer fibroid treatments that shrink tumors by cutting off their supply of blood and oxygen. So often, we are surprised to learn that our patients’ ObGyn’s didn’t suggest this type of treatment; instead, like Erin, they had to research the option on their own. We stand with our #WCW Erin Robinson in believing that women have a right to know all their fibroid treatment options. So help us and Erin Robinson spread the word and let’s get information about alternative fibroid treatments trending today! 

Is UFE Covered by Insurance?

Many women diagnosed with uterine tumors are worried about covering the cost of fibroid treatments. In our Houston fibroids practice, we offer a non-invasive, alternative  treatment option known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization. Its benefits include: minimal downtime, no hospital stays and the ability to avoid surgery and hysterectomy! 

Fortunately for patients seeking relief from fibroid pain, UFE is an established and accepted fibroid treatment option. As such, all major insurers (and most plans in general) will cover the cost of treatment (check out the helpful video below for more information from one of our fibroid experts, Dr. Hardee.) In fact, because we perform all UFE procedures in our Houston fibroids office, on an outpatient basis, many patients are faced with much lower out-of-pocket expenses in comparison to other treatment options. While surgeries like myomectomies and hysterectomies require costly hospital stays, anesthesia and other additional expenses, many women who decide to proceed with UFE are billed for as little as an office visit co-pay. Additionally, by September, many women will have met their insurance plan deductibles, further lowering the expected cost of treating fibroids.

Of course, as an office, we want patients to focus on getting better, not on worrying about paying for their treatment. For that reason, our experienced team is on hand and available to help with handling any insurance issues that come up for patients being evaluated and treated for uterine fibroids. Even before your treatments begin, someone from our office will contact your insurance company directly to address any coverage issues before treatment.

 Insurance and our Houston Fibroid Practice

Uterine-Fibroid-Treatment-for-African-American-Women in HoustonThankfully, our practice also works with a wide variety of insurers: from Medicare to HMO plans, we have one of the most comprehensive insurance offerings in the greater Houston area. This means that you will more-than-likely be covered when it comes to paying for UFE.

With over 30 years of combined experience treating women suffering from fibroids, Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee know how difficult dealing with fibroids can be. That’s why our doctors offer a less invasive treatment option and a variety of ways to pay for the treatment itself. Don’t let concerns about cost prevent you from treating your fibroid pain. Contact our office at (713) 575-3686 to begin your insurance-covered journey to better health! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#WCW: FKA Twigs Fibroids Journey

On this week’s Woman Crush Wednesday, we are celebrating singer (and former Robert Pattinson fiance) FKA Twigs for opening up about her fibroids struggle. In May, the star gave a very revealing Instagram update, saying she had undergone laproscopic surgery to remove six fibroids from her uterus. 

She went on to share: “the tumours were pretty huge, the size of 2 cooking apples 🍎 🍎, 3 kiwis 🥝 🥝 🥝 and a couple of 🍓🍓.
a fruit bowl of pain everyday. the nurse said that the weight and size was like being 6 months pregnant.”

Pain and Loneliness
Sadly, for FKA Twigs, the journey to healing was extremely tough. “I tried to be brave but it was excruciating at times and to be honest I started to doubt if my body would ever feel the same again,” she said. “I had surgery in December and I was so scared, despite lots of love from friends and family I felt really alone and my confidence as a woman was knocked.”

The good news is that, six months later, the singer was feeling better and ready to share a message with other struggling women: “I know that a lot of women suffer from fibroid tumours and I just wanted to say after my experience that you are amazing warriors and that you are not alone. you can get through this,” she said, concluding, “and with this I let go of the pain… love always twigs.”

A Better Path
We are so thankful that laproscopic surgery helped FKA Twigs feel like herself again; certainly, many women have been helped by similar procedure. Still, any kind of surgery is traumatic to your body, so why go under the knife if there’s another option? 

Thankfully, there is! Known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), it’s a minimally invasive fibroid treatment delivered through a catheter inserted into your arm. Women can typically avoid hospital stays with this outpatient procedure and most feel well enough to stand up and walk immediately afterwards. 

So to all of Ms. Twigs’ fellow fibroid warriors, we say: know your options. Come into our Houston Fibroids office and find out if UFE is right for you! 

 

Warning: Fibroid Meds Linked to Liver Damage

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has advised that women taking Esmya, a fibroid medication, may experience liver injury from the drug. In order to prevent this complication, the EMA has implemented a series of precautions for doctors to review before prescribing Esmya as a fibroid treatment. 

When working properly, Esmya is supposed to reduce the bleeding and anemia associated with uterine fibroids. Unfortunately, because some women taking Esmya have suffered liver injuries, the EMA now recommends that all patients should have liver screenings before and after taking the drug. Women with a history of liver problems should never take Esmya, and the drug should really be seen as an option of last resort. Only women without other treatment options should take this drug, according to the EMA. 

Sadly, many women are not aware of UFE, a minimally invasive fibroid treatment with many fewer potential complications. Women who are eligible for this non-invasive treatment option can expect an outpatient procedure that lasts for about about one hour; in fact, because the procedure is conducted through an artery in the arm, most UFE patients are able to stand up and walk around right after receiving treatment. Best of all, treatment is delivered directly to the uterine growths, offering a permanent fibroid solution that leaves other body parts completely unaffected. 

If you have been prescribed medications to help with the side effects of uterine fibroids, it’s crucial that you learn about all of your potential treatment options. Contact our Houston Fibroids practice to see if UFE can help you avoid the potential complications of fibroid medications. 

Why Fibroid Patients Don’t Need Hysterectomies

When it comes to fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding, different doctors offer different treatments, but many opt for surgical removal or even hysterectomy (the complete removal of a woman’s uterus.) Since 1995, however, a different option has been available: like Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee at Houston Fibroids, doctors can now treat fibroids with embolization, a process that cuts off blood flow to the fibroids, causing them to shrink without invasive surgery.  

While there have been debates about each option, a new study from Denmark has now proved that patients have better long-term outcomes after embolization! 

Concrete Proof
Known as the EMMY study, this Dutch trial followed 156 women for 10 years after they were treated for uterine fibroids. All of the women had symptoms that made them eligible for hysterectomies. Of these women, 81 were treated with embolization and 75 had hysterectomies. Ten years after their procedures, researchers questioned the women on their quality of life and came up with very interesting findings: of the women who had embolization, only 28 needed a hysterectomy. The remaining 53 women who avoided hysterectomies reported similar health satisfaction to those 75 women who were given immediate hysterectomies. In short, the results prove that hysterectomies typically don’y need to be the first plan of attack in a fibroid treatment plan. As study leader Jim Reekers says, “Uterine artery embolization is a well-documented and good alternative to hysterectomy for symptomatic uterine fibroids, on which all eligible patients should be counseled.” 

Find Out More
As this study shows, hysterectomy is often avoidable when it comes to treating fibroids. Even in women who eventually will require a hysterectomy, embolization treatments can delay the need for major surgery and, of course, the onset of menopause that comes with a hysterectomy. When it comes to your health, knowledge is power. Before undergoing a life-altering hysterectomy procedure, or any kind of invasive fibroid treatment plan, schedule a consultation with our office team to discuss your eligibility for UFE, our highly effective, minimally invasive fibroid treatment option.