Category: Treatment Options

3 Surprising Hysterectomy Side Effects

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.

Female with Fibroids

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.

Sources: Menopause, The New York Times, Journal of Endocrinology

Why Black Women Get Fibroids

Black women get fibroids more than any other women on the planet. And, did you know that African American women have some of the worst fibroid experiences? These are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around your uterus.

Fibroids are composed of muscle tissue. You can develop one or many fibroids. They may be small or large. And, while some women don’t even know they have fibroids, others experience symptoms that significantly interfere with their lives. These include heavy periods, pelvic pain,  frequent urination and/or constipation, and pain during sex.

Why Do Black Women get Fibroids More Often?

We still don’t know why some women develop fibroids, while others don’t. But we do know that Black and African women develop fibroids three times more often than white women. And those fibroids are likely to be large and symptomatic.

Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project, is one of those women. She was 23 when she received a fibroid diagnosis, but she’d already had years of pain. Today, at 42, she continues to fight for fibroid awareness. She wants the world to take this health challenge seriously, pointing out that the WHO (World Health Organization) doesn’t even share fibroid information on its website.

This is a shocking discrepancy, since the site offers extensive information on other conditions affecting women, including infertility.

Valbrun recently told CNN, “I just don’t understand it, like, if so many Black women have fibroids, why aren’t more people talking about it? Why aren’t there so many walks and campaigns like there are for other medical conditions?” she said.

Additional Challenges

Lack of awareness is a problem for many black women who get fibroids. But so is the period stigma that’s still prevalent in many African cultures.

That’s something Ghanain Nana Konamah is working to change. In 2019, she and friend Jessica Nabongo made a documentary to help women understand how fibroids can impact so many aspects of women’s lives. At the same time, she’s trying to eliminate period stigma so that women speak up about symptoms and get diagnosed.

Early diagnosis is crucial. And it’s equally important to understand your fibroid treatment options! Because, according to the most recent CDC data, 33 percent of Black women ages 48-50 had a hysterectomy. In contrast, only 3 percent of white women in that age group removed their uterus. And when it comes to younger women? The gaps are even more startling.  Among women ages 33-45, 12 percent of Black women had a hysterectomy. And white women? Only 4 percent in that age group chose this invasive surgery. That’s a major problem. We need to do better and help spread more fibroid knowledge, so all women know their fibroid treatment options.

Increased Risk and Delayed Treatment

Uterine-Fibroid-Treatment-for-African-American-Women in Houston We don’t know the exact scientific evidence reason why African American women are more likely to develop uterine fibroids. Still, there are a number of theories.

First, because African American girls are more likely to start their period at a younger age, one such theory is that fact makes them more susceptible to fibroid development later in life. It could also explain why black women develop fibroids at a younger age than women of other races. Daughters are also three times as likely to have fibroids if their mother experienced them, which just completes this vicious circle.

Recently, the Black Women’s Health Study offered another theory. One interesting new idea was that black women’s increased fibroid risk was linked to childhood trauma. Something that is devastating for us to learn.

And here’s the worse news. More African American women have fibroids, and severe fibroid symptoms, they don’t get help quickly. In fact, studies show that  African American women reported taking an average of four years to seek fibroid treatment

How to Treat Uterine Fibroids

Unfortunately, African American women are not only three times more likely to develop uterine fibroids but they are also more likely to have larger and more densely populated fibroid tumors, so the treatment options can be different. While African American women diagnosed with fibroids are twice as likely to have a hysterectomy as Caucasian women, it’s important that those diagnosed with uterine fibroids are given comprehensive treatment options.

  • Non-invasive: include watchful waiting if you don’t experience symptoms, hormone treatments that may treat some symptoms, or an ultrasound procedure.
  • Less invasive: include uterine fibroid embolization, or endometrial ablation, which removes the lining of the uterine.
  • Surgical: include a myomectomy in which the fibroids are surgically removed, or a hysterectomy where the entire uterus is removed. The more invasive a surgery, the more room there is for complications.

Talk to your gynecologist and our fibroid specialists about the symptoms you’re experiencing to help decide on your best approach to treatment.

Sources: CNN, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Black Women’s Health Imperatives, Black Women’s Health Study, CDC, Well + Good

You Don’t Have to Be Living with Fibroids

So many women in this country are living with fibroids. These uterine tumors are the most common kind in the U.S. Typically, they aren’t cancerous. But they can cause symptoms such as heavy periods. And pelvic pain, which often travels to your lower back, hips and legs. If you have fibroids, you may have to urinate more often (frequency.) You could even face constipation.

Now, we do know how to treat fibroids. Yet many doctors tell their patients to just watch these tumors. Waiting for them to grow and cause problem. For women living with fibroids, that’s a big deal. Because waiting for fibroids to grow limits your treatment options. And, as Houston fibroid specialists, we want women to avoid fibroid surgery. But that is often only possible if you seek early treatment.

The Danger of Living with Fibroids

Unfortunately, living with fibroids takes short-and-long term tolls on your health. Especially for women of color—up to 80% of black women have fibroids. And their lives are disrupted.

Consider the impact of living with fibroids. How can you go to work with a heavy period? When you constantly worry about leaking onto your clothes or furniture? After all, you could pass a clot at any moment. Which means a day at work requires serious protective gear. You may double up on pads and tampons. If your periods are really heavy, you might even need an adult diaper to feel safe leaving your house.

And don’t forget. Heavy periods aren’t just embarrassing. That monthly blood loss can leave you fatigued. Or even trigger anemia. But, in the face of all these challenges, women keep pushing through. Whether it’s fear of losing your job. Or you’re simply too embarrassed to talk about “women’s issues,” you keep to your routines. Even while fibroids make it difficult to do so.

Delayed Fibroid Treatment Female with Fibroids

Sometimes, this challenging routine lasts for years. In fact, a 2013 study in the Journal of Women’s Health revealed that most women wait 3 ½ years before treating fibroids. Even scarier? Twenty-five percent of the women waited 5 years—or longer—before treating their fibroids.  At that point, many women faced limited treatment options. Because their fibroids were large.

Now, here’s where the news gets worse. These are the main reasons study participants delayed treatment.

1.       They didn’t want surgery

2.       They wanted to keep their uterus

3.       They never knew about alternatives to fibroid surgery

Then, by the time they went for treatment, surgery was the only safe option for too many women.

Minimally Invasive Fibroid Treatment

The saddest part of these findings is that you can treat fibroids without surgery. In fact, many women living with fibroids find relief from an outpatient, non-surgical treatment known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE.) While it’s been around for 25 years, there’s still too many women who don’t know about this option.

Unlike surgery, UFE typically lasts less than one hour. You procedure begins with a tiny incision in your femoral artery. This allows your doctor to pass a catheter to your uterine artery, so we can get near your fibroid tumor. Then, we can deposit embolic material (small spheres) that stop blood flow to your fibroids. So they shrink and stop causing symptoms.

Right after the procedure, you may get cramps, and your doctor will help keep you comfortable. You typically can return to light activity a few days after your procedure. And, unlike a hysterectomy, many women can still have children after UFE. Although some women prefer a myomectomy if they still plan to have children.

Regardless of your choice, it’s important to know you have options. Want to learn more? Schedule an appointment with our specialists to see if you’re a good candidate for UFE. Because living with fibroids often means pain. And you don’t have to live like that if you don’t want to.

Sources: Journal of Women’s Health

#WCW: Black Women, Fibroid Treatments and Risk

If you’re exploring fibroid treatments, you’re not alone. Up to 80 percent of adult black women have fibroids. These muscular growths aren’t usually cancerous. But they can drastically affect your quality of life. In fact, women with fibroids experience pain, heavy bleeding and fertility loss. And here’s the worst part. Many black women can’t access quality healthcare. So they never explore fibroid treatments. For that reason, many women choose hysterectomy (removing their uterus). Even when less invasive treatments work.  And we believe that has to change. Jasmine Gomez fights for information on fibroid treatments

That was the case for Jasmine Gomez. She told Women’s Health magazine that, in her 20s, she wanted to donate her eggs. But during the process doctors discovered nine large fibroids. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, she said. After all, she says, “My mom dealt with uterine fibroids herself (she had surgery to remove hers when I was younger, but we never really talked about it.”

That lack of information meant Jasmine didn’t know much about fibroids. “I didn’t know that you are more at risk of developing fibroids if you have a family member who also has them. I also didn’t know that fibroids are more common and severe in African American women than those of other ethnicities,” she says.

Trouble with Fibroid Treatments

Because she lacked key information, Jasmine’s large fibroids needed to be removed surgically. And that’s when things got really bad. During surgery, doctors discovered more fibroids. They tried to remove them all. But the surgery was taking too long, and Jasmine lost lots of blood. So they closed her up. And left behind fibroids that were deeply embedded in her uterus. Their advice? To let the remaining tumors get bigger. And get surgery again when they caused problems.

Jasmine wasn’t ok with that advice. She couldn’t face a future of constant surgery. So she got to research, and decided to have a partial hysterectomy. Now, that’s not the right outcome for every woman. But it’s one that made sense for her lifestyle. And one she made armed with knowledge. Which is why she says, “I wish I’d been better informed about fibroids when I first learned I had them.” And why we’re sharing more information about these tumors today, to honor Jasmine as our Woman Crush of the week.

 

Fibroids: A Common Problem

Let’s really understand uterine fibroids. These fleshy, non-cancerous tumors develop in, on or around your uterus. And, we don’t know why. But we do know that fibroids are three times as common in African American populations as in Caucasian ones.

This is true for all black women. But it’s an even bigger problem for African American women with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD.) In fact, a recent study in Academic Radiology found that 61.2% of black women with SCD had fibroids. In contrast, a lower 52.1% of the SCD-free black women had fibroids. In other words, fibroids are a major problem in the African American community. And so is the lack of information about fibroid treatment options.

 

Exploring Fibroid Treatments

Unfortunately, many black women often cure fibroids with hysterectomies. Now, a hysterectomy will eliminate your fibroid problems. But it can cause a whole range of new health concerns. Not just immediate infertility. Studies show that hysterectomies, especially in women under 40, can lead to incontinence, loss of sex drive, depression, obesity and heart problems.

That’s pretty scary on it’s own. But here’s what’s worse: hysterectomy isn’t your only choice when it comes to fibroid symptom relief. You can choose myomectomy, a surgery that remove your fibroids, not your uterus. And, even more excitingly, there are non-surgical procedures like UFE! In this procedure, we cut off blood flow to your fibroids. We effectively killing the tumor, without forcing you to deal with hospital stays or extended down time. UFE may be a great option if you hope to avoid the expense and risks of invasive surgery. The only problem is this: many women don’t even know UFE exits.

Expanding Fibroid Treatment Options

That’s where health care activism can make a difference. We see exciting developments in government already. And say thank you to Senator Kamala Harris. Her bill to expand fibroid research is a great step. (And the reason Jasmine Gomez bravely opened up about her condition.) Our doctors strongly believe that investing in women’s health care is a great way to help achieve healthcare equality. For ALL women.

But we also know that there’s more work to do. That’s why our doctors are joining the cause. We’re fighting to help all women access high-quality health care by spreading the word about UFE. Women should be armed with information. They need to know about all treatment options. It’s the only way to make informed healthcare decisions. About fibroid treatment or any other health challenge. Now, we want your help in our mission. So please share your fibroid stories. And offer info on alternatives to hysterectomy, on our website or social media. Use the hashtag  #FibroidFix. Let’s get women’s health care issues trending!

7 Fibroid Facts Black Women Need to Know

As we just mention, we’re on a mission to spread fibroid information. After all, information is one of the best tools we have when fighting fibroids. So check out this 7 point list, from author Porsha Monique, designed to help raise fibroid awareness.

  1. Fibroids are especially common in African-American women.
  2. They are the number one cause of your heavy periods. Heavy periods could be defined as having to change your tampon or pad every hour. Or always needing backup period protection.
  3. Uterine growths are also the #1 reason for hysterectomy. But learning your options can reduce the number of avoidable surgeries.
  4. Too many times, women with fibroids are told to “watch” them. But this leads to fibroid growth and limits your treatment options.
  5. Non-invasive treatments such as UFE can help. UFE is performed by Interventional Radiologists like our Houston specialists.
  6. Compared to fibroid surgery, UFE is less invasive and less expensive. You won’t need to stay in hospital and you’ll enjoy a shorter recovery.
  7. UFE has a very high success rate (90%). Fibroid treatments like this offer symptom relief with fewer risks. And, you can keep your uterus so you don’t enter menopause.

Want to see if UFE could help you find fibroid symptom relief? Schedule an appointment with our fibroid treatment experts. We can review your options and see if you’re a good candidate for Uterine Fibroid Embolization.

Sources: Rolling Out Magazine, Journal of Academic Radiology

New Warnings About Popular Fibroid Drug

Last year, Health Canada released a health warning about Allergan’s fibroid, Esmya. (The medication is also known as Fibristal.) According to the warning, this fibroid drug can cause a rare but serious liver injury.

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop inside, on or in between the layers of your uterus. There are many different fibroid treatment options. One of which was this popular fibroid drug. Until this new injury discovery.

Dangers in Fibroid Drug

Esmya is an oral medication. It’s purpose? Managing some of your fibroid symptoms. Especially heavy bleeding during your period. Before Health Canada’s warning, doctors prescribed Esmya w for women who were of child-bearing age. It was meant to help you avoid  fibroid surgeries–myomectomy and hysterectomy.

Women who were waiting for surgery and wanted fibroid symptom relief also used Fibristal. While the drug has been widely prescribed in Canada and Europe, the FDA here in the U.S. has declined approval of the drug for use in this country.

After doctors discovered liver injury was possible with this fibroid drug, plans changed. First, doctors decided to limit prescriptions for this fibroid drug. They agreed to only prescribe Fibristal to women with fibroids who wanted to get pregnant.

Even for those women, doctors limited their prescriptions. Women were warned not to refill their fibroid drug. And, of course, women with histories of liver problems couldn’t take Fibristal.

Recently, we’ve seen a new development in the fibroid drug saga. On September 30, manufacturer AbbVie Inc. took Fibristal off the Canadian market. As Houston fibroid specialists, we celebrate this decision. And we’re happy to help you find safer fibroid treatment options.

Other Alternatives to Fibroid Surgery

We understand wanting to avoid fibroid surgery. It’s a big deal to have a myomectomy (surgical removal of the tumor.) And a bigger deal to get a hysterectomy (removing your entire uterus). Both procedures come with a hospital stay. Not to mention a long recovery.

Even with potentially serious complications, a fibroid drug isn’t the solution. That’s also true for young women with fibroid symptoms. Want a better choice? In our Houston area office, we provide a minimally-invasive fibroid treatment. Now, it comes with no down time and you can get treatment in our office.

While UFE isn’t right for everyone, it’s a treatment option worth considering. Especially since it offers a non-medicinal, non-surgical solution for fibroid sufferers. If you’re currently investigating fibroid treatment options, be sure to schedule a consultation with Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee. Then, we’ll help you learn whether Uterine Fibroid Embolization is the right option for you.

Sources: Health Canada, Nasdaq

#WCW: WWE Star Needs Alternative to Fibroid Surgery

Recently, we learned that WWE star Naomi had a myomectomy, and we wish she could have found an alternative to fibroid surgery. The fierce wrestler announced on her Instagram: “In the midst of hurricane Sally and COVID I also underwent an unexpected 6 hour surgery to finally remove a massive fibroid that’s caused me severe anemia fatigue horrible abdominal pains and more problems I don’t even want to mention over the past year and a half. I’m recovering well. I’m relieved and already feeling so much better. So family and fans don’t worry, I’m ok. Lol, miss ya.” WWE Naomi Talks about fibroid surgery

First, let’s be clear: we’re happy Naomi found relief. And we applaud her as our Woman Crush of the week for bravely sharing her story. But we also wish she’d learned about other options before her fibroid got so large. Because we believe that there need to be more alternatives to fibroid surgery in this country. Too many women with fibroids—non-cancerous tumors of the uterus—get hysterectomies (complete uterus removal). In fact, fibroids are the top reason women in the U.S. get hysterectomies. Because it’s such a serious surgery, many women opt for less invasive fibroid treatments. In our office, we offer Uterine Fibroid Embolization, a non-surgical treatment that shrinks your fibroids.

Oral and Minimally Invasive Alternatives to Fibroid Surgery

Recently, the FDA approved a new oral medication for women with fibroids, that’s expected to be available later this month. Called Oriahnn, the pill combines estrogen, progestin, and elagolix (a gonadotropin-releasing hormone). It’s important to note that this pill doesn’t shrink your fibroids. Instead, it decreases fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding.

How effective is this pill? A recent study highlights the effects of elagolix, just one piece of the new drug’s puzzle.  Over the course of two and a half years, they followed 433 women who had fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding. 67% of participating women were African American, since black women are disproportionately affected by fibroids.

oral alternatives to fibroid surgery

Women who took elagolix did get relief from heavy periods, but they also suffered hot flashes, night sweats, and bone loss. In contrast, 90% of the women who took a mix of elagolix, estradiol and norethindrone acetate (“add-back therapy”) experienced reduced blood loss, but with fewer side effects. The “Add-back” therapy combatted effects of stopping estrogen and progestin, as Oriahnn does. Some of these women saw their uterus size decrease. But their fibroids did not shrink.

Also, this pill won’t prevent pregnancy, even though it’s hormonal. And, studies note that taking the medication can cause long-term bone loss. Which means that you can’t take the pill for more than two years. That leads us to the question: what next? Unfortunately, once you stop taking this pill, your fibroid symptoms would return, sending you back to the start of your treatment journey. And, since they don’t want that journey to end in a hysterectomy, researchers at Michigan State University are trying to figure out why fibroids form in the first place. Because, in doing so, they hope to keep every woman from being pushed towards hysterectomy because of fibroid tumors.

Genes and Fibroids: The Newly Discovered Connection

In the course of this study, researchers at MSU’s College of Human Medicine discovered that HOXA13, a gene associated with fibroids, was connected to a process, known as homeotic transformation, that causes uterine muscle cells to turn into cells more typically found inside your cervix.

“It’s a cell type in a position where it doesn’t belong,” explained lead researcher Dr. Jose Teixeira said. “This was a surprise.”

Katy Fibroid Clinic
New research on fibroids could drastically reduce the number of women who are treated with hysterectomies.

But this discovery isn’t just informative: it could change the way we treat fibroids. Specifically, new treatments could target the chain of events that causes your cells to change. That way, you could treat existing tumors with less invasive treatments, such as Uterine Fibroid Embolization. Then, you could use molecular therapy to prevent any  new tumors from forming.

As Teixeira explains, “The discovery that fibroid tumors have characteristics of cervical cells could be a key to better treatments. For example, among pregnant women, the cervix typically softens just before delivery. Figuring out what causes the cervix to soften could suggest new therapies that soften the fibroid tumors and prevent or inhibit their growth.” And, if that works out, you could eliminate any hysterectomy discussions!

What’s Next for Fibroid Research?

While new therapies are still going to take a while, this research is already changing the way scientists study fibroids. Now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding a follow-up fibroid study.  It’s focus? Texeira says he wants to discover: “Is there a place where we can intervene? That’s the follow-up. If we can find out what’s causing the cervical softening, then we might be able to investigate treatment.” And that could stop fibroid growth before a tumor ever forms.

Sources: Bleacher Report, Harvard Health, National Library of MedicineFDA.Gov, Cell Reports Journal

Reality Check: When Do You Need a Hysterectomy?

So many women in this country get unnecessary hysterectomies! Every year, about 600,000 American women undergo this procedure. (And some estimates say 33% of all women in the U.S. will have a hysterectomy by the time they turn 60!) That’s scary news, since a hysterectomy (the complete removal of your  uterus) is a really big deal. 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, with a hysterectomy you lose your uterus. But there are different versions of this surgery. In an oophorectomy, doctors remove your ovaries. And with salpingectomy, you only lose your fallopian tubes. Need a hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy? That means your uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries all have to go.

You may need a partial, total or radical hysterectomies. Partial hysterectomies preserve your cervix. Total hysterectomies don’t. And radical hysterectomies take your whole uterus, cervix and the top part of your vagina.

There are several different ways to perform a hysterectomy. The procedure your surgeon uses will depend on the your individual needs. Options include going through your vagina or your abdomen. Or, in some cases, you could have a laparoscopic hysterectomy. That means your doctor could perform this procedure through a tiny incision, using minute telescopes to help see your uterus and safely remove it.

Why are Hysterectomies so Common?

Do 600,000 women a year REALLY need to lose their uterus? As minimally invasive fibroid treatment specialists, we know the answer is “no.” So why is this procedure so common? Unfortunately, a lot of factors play into the over-prevalence of hysterectomies.

First, this procedure has been around for years. So surgeons feel very comfortable performing hysterectomies. And they typically know what the surgical outcome will be, meaning less chances of unpleasant surprises. In contrast, less invasive options such as UFE are relatively new. Many doctors still aren’t familiar with these techniques, so they are less likely to recommend them as options.

And the problem doesn’t stop there. Research suggests that Black women are four times more likely to have a hysterectomy than White women. And they have hysterectomies more often than women of any other race. Yes, this could be tied to the higher incidence of fibroids in women of color. But it also has lots to do with healthcare inequality in this country. Which is something we can’t allow to keep happening.

When Do You NEED a Hysterectomy?

Hysterectomies are appropriate when you’re facing a life-threatening condition. So, if you have cancers of the uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix or vagina, you may need one. 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.

Looking to treat your fibroids with a less invasive option? Our Houston area fibroid specialists are here to help! Schedule a consultation with our team, to see if you’re a good candidate for an alternative to hysterectomy!

Sources: CDC, Shape Magazine

Surgery or UFE: Differences in Fertility & Quality of Life

When choosing fibroid treatments, your two main choices will be surgery or UFE. Fibroid tumors are non-cancerous growths that develop in and on a woman’s uterus. While not a life threatening condition, because of their location, they can cause many negative symptoms, including problems with fertility, menstruation, and your bowel and bladder function.

Hysterectomy procedure

Some women have a higher risk for developing fibroids. While we don’t know why these tumors form, we do know that certain factors are connected. That means if you have a family history, or are an African American women, you are more likely to develop fibroids in the future.

If your fibroid risk is high, now’s the time to think about your fertility. Women with fibroids who want to have children are often pushed into surgery treatment. Previously, we thought myomectomy, surgical fibroid removal, was a woman’s best option if she wanted to get pregnant. Now, research suggests that isn’t the case.

Quality of Life with Fibroid Treatments

There’s a new FEMME study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, comparing myomectomy and UFE outcomes. Specifically, the study examines how each fibroid treatment affects your post-procedure quality of life. And the outcomes were very interesting.

After treating fibroids with surgery or UFE, each group of women rated their quality of life. Both groups of women reported significant improvements. And there was only an eight point difference between the two groups’ reported improvements. That difference is small enough to be considered statistically insignificant. Or, to put it simply, myomectomy and UFE provides almost identical improvements in your daily life. But their post-treatment recovery process is different: UFE has almost no down time. While myomectomy is still an invasive surgery, which may require a hospital stay.

Given these differences, the FEMME study should offer proof that you should explore UFE if you’re considering myomectomy. Since the two fibroid treatments offer similar benefits, and UFE comes with an easier recovery. Now, it’s important to remember that the FEMME study didn’t address fertility outcomes with either of these fibroid treatment options. So we’ll turn to that data in the next sections of this post.

Myomectomies Don’t Improve Fertility

Check this out. A study examining “the effect of myomectomy on fertility[discovered] no significant benefit,” according to a review in the Cochrane journal. In other words, even if you have surgery to remove your fibroid tumors, your chances of getting or staying pregnant may not improve.

Of course, this is just one study. We need more research to really prove the effect of fibroid surgery on fertility. It does, however, mean that women should carefully consider all their treatment options before rushing into surgery just to preserve their fertility dreams.

UFE and Pregnancy Fibroids can impact your fetal development

Patients with fibroids  who hope to get pregnant may also consider uterine fibroid embolization, a minimally invasive procedure that effectively kills fibroids by cutting off their blood supply. Many patients wishing to avoid myomectomy want to know if they can become pregnant after uterine fibroid embolization. There have been reports of many successful pregnancies in patients after UFE. Many studies show that fertility rates and miscarriage rates in UFE patients are no different than patients of the same age with fibroids who have had no treatment. But, if you are willing to have surgery, and you’re healthy enough for a myomectomy, discuss the advantages with your provider.

Early studies suggested a slight increase in pregnancy complications after UFE vs myomectomy. But newer science suggests that tweaks to the UFE process improved fertility and pregnancy outcomes. These pregnancy complications can include pre-term labor and pregnancy induced hypertension, also known as pre eclampsia. UFE can still help patients who aren’t good candidates for surgery. All this will be especially true if it turns out that myomectomy really can’t improve your fertility.

Sources: New England Journal of Medicine, Canadian Family Physician journal, European Radiology Journal

#WCW: Black Women and Fibroids, a Constant Fight

Black women and fibroids just seem to go together. About 80% of all women develop fibroids by the time they hit their 50s. But the rate of fibroid development is much higher among black women. 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. black women and fibroids

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 Exercise can help black women and fibroids

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.

Sources: Chicago Defender

3 Reasons to Choose UFE Over Fibroid Surgery

When you have uterine fibroids, it’s important to explore all your treatment options. Many women with fibroids think they need a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus,) But many could 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 about which of the two less invasive treatment options would be their best choice. Now, new research is giving women two important reasons to choose UFE.

Types of Fibroid Surgery

Before we talk about UFE vs myomectomy, let’s talk about the different types of fibroid removal surgery. If you choose to have your tumors surgically removed, you’ll have two choices: open abdominal surgery or laparoscopic surgery. With the first option, your surgeon opens up your lower abdomen with an incision large enough to remove your fibroids. This is obviously an invasive procedure that will come with an extended recovery period.

On the other hand, with laparoscopic fibroid surgery, your fibroids are removed through a series of several smaller incisions. The procedure is less invasive, with a faster recovery period. But you’ll still need to undergo sedation before the procedure.

Still, both of these procedures do help relieve fibroid symptoms. In a recent study in the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, researchers followed 143 women with fibroids for three years. 52 had open-abdominal procedures,  28 went with the laparoscopic procedure. Typically, the women choosing open-abdominal surgery started off with larger and more numerous fibroid clusters. Now, what the researchers discovered was very interesting: despite the differences in recovery periods, women in both groups reported similar improvements in quality of life and symptom relief. Yet, they still had to struggle with the challenges of surgery. Which is why many women still look for alternative fibroid treatments.

3 Main Advantages of Uterine Fibroid Embolization

If you’re looking for an alternative to fibroid surgery, here is some helpful research you’ll want to review.

According to research conducted by Dr. Jemianne Bautista-Jia, UFE may be more effective than myomectomy at relieving fibroid symptoms. Specifically, the study discovered three advantages to this method, as compared to surgical options.

  1. With UFE, women were less likely to need secondary procedures than women who had myomectomy. That means if you choose UFE, you’ve got higher odds of finding lasting relief.
  2. Women were less likely to need a blood transfusion after UFE than following surgery. Not only will this help you return faster to your daily activities, but it will also protect you from potential issues that may arise from this somewhat-risky blood transfer.
  3. Women whose fibroids caused heavy menstrual bleeding experienced better relief with UFE than with myomectomy. And there’s nothing we don’t love about that news: say goodbye to back-up menstrual protection. And hello to the gorgeous white dress you’ve been eyeing for months!

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, The Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology

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