If you have uterine fibroids, you may experience unpleasant symptoms such as:
- Irregular menstrual bleeding
- Urinary problems
- Bloating and abdominal distention
You want relief, no matter what’s going on in the world around you. But, with fears of coronavirus infection rising, elective surgeries are off the table for the moment. So, hysterectomies are out. But that’s not such a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great reason to seek alternative fibroid therapies. And Uterine Fibroid Embolization, or UFE, is a great, non-surgical choice. Bonus: we can do it as an outpatient procedure!
When Should I See a Doctor?
Especially right now, you might be wondering: “How do I know if my fibroid symptoms are a real problem? And when should I see a doctor?”
Fortunately, we can give you a clear cut answer. And it comes in the form of this standard scoring system, based on a doctor-developed, eight-question survey. Once you’ve got your score, it’s easier to determine your next medical steps. For each of the following questions, give an answer on a scale of 1 to 5:
- 1 = Not at all
- 2 = A little bit
- 3 = Somewhat
- 4 = A great deal
- 5 = A very great deal
In the last three months, how distressed were you by?
- Heavy bleeding during your menstrual period
- Passing blood clots during your menstrual period
- Irregular amount of time between your menstrual periods
- Irregular number of days that your menstrual periods last
- Feeling tightness or pressure in your pelvic area
- Frequent daytime urination
- Frequent nighttime urination
- Feeling fatigued
From these answers, your doctor can calculate an overall score and get a reliable picture of how fibroids are affecting your life. Treatment options, including the possibility of a procedure, can then be discussed in more detail.
Treatment Options for Fibroids
Traditional medical treatment of fibroids includes a trial of medications which often produce less than desirable results. In the end, a hysterectomy is recommended, and major surgery is scheduled. Like any operation, there are risks and recovery factors that must be considered such as:
- Risk of bleeding, infection, death
- Anesthetic risk
- Desire to have more children
- Time off of work
- Limited physical ability during recovery phase
- Disruption of hormone function and balance
It has been shown that even when the ovaries are spared, hormone disruption is commonplace. The rationale is that some of the blood supply for the ovaries is compromised by removal of the uterus. This becomes more critical with advancing age as proper hormone balance is essential for bone, brain and heart health. Data show that women who undergo a hysterectomy but spare the ovaries are at risk for premature failure of ovary function.
Fortunately, there is a technique to deal with fibroids that spares many of the above issues. While not new, this procedure is rapidly gaining favor.
The procedure is called Uterine Fibroid Embolization or UFE.
Doctors thread a tiny catheter through a blood vessel in the arm or leg and locate the blood supply to the fibroid or fibroids. Then a like substance is injected directly into the precise location preventing blood from flowing to the fibroid. In essence, the fibroid is starved and over the next few days undergoes a process of degeneration and shrinks in size.
One of the exciting benefits of this procedure is that patients go home the same day and avoid a hospital stay. They can also more quickly return to normal physical activities including returning to work. Studies show that 90% of women treated with UFE have significant improvement or complete resolution of their symptoms.
There are a few select centers around the US, and Houston Fibroids has been successfully treating patients with this advanced technique for the last several years.
Sources: Journal of Women’s Health