Diagnosed With Fibroids?
If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine fibroid tumors, you’re not alone. As many as three out of four women have uterine fibroids at some point in their life, according to the Mayo Clinic. While the condition is common, it can still cause problems.
As tumors grow and spread, women may notice heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged menstrual periods, pelvic pressure or pain, bladder control problems, constipation and back pain. Fortunately, there are treatment options.
The downside of treating fibroids with a hysterectomy
If you’re dealing with fibroids, a doctor may suggest a hysterectomy to remove the fibroids. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, fibroids lead to 600,000 hysterectomies annually. That means one-third to one-half of all hysterectomies that are performed every year is due to fibroids.
This invasive surgery removes your uterus, and in some cases, your ovaries, which can send your body into premature menopause. While it does remove the fibroids and many of the symptoms associated with them, it forces your body to go through menopause before it’s ready to do so.
According to WebMD, menopause occurs naturally in women who are 51 years old.
Having a hysterectomy before that age will trigger premature menopause, and bring on a whole host of symptoms like mood changes, irritability and sleeplessness. Plus, the procedure ends the possibility of pregnancy. So, while a hysterectomy alleviates the symptoms caused by fibroids, you’ll be introduced to a new set of symptoms caused by the surgery.
Alternative treatments that won’t trigger premature menopause
There are ways to treat fibroid tumors without catapulting your body into premature menopause, which is a major factor to consider. Here are several treatment options that can alleviate the symptoms brought on by uterine fibroid tumors that won’t trigger menopause:
- Oral medications
There are medications that can alleviate some of the symptoms brought on by fibroids. Some oral contraceptives can help with menstrual bleeding, and NSAIDs can relieve pain. However, neither option removes the tumors or shrinks them in any way.
- MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery
This non-invasive procedure zaps fibroids with sound waves. You’re placed in an MRI, which allows the doctors to pinpoint where your fibroids are. Once located, the doctor can hit the targeted area with sound waves that heat and destroy the fibroids. It’s an outpatient procedure that leaves your uterus in tact. This procedure isn’t widely available yet. Most procedures are done at specialized clinics.
The majority of women who undergo this treatment report significant improvement in their symptoms within the first few months of the procedure.
- Uterine fibroid embolization
Another non-invasive procedure, uterine fibroid embolization, cuts off blood flow to fibroids causing them to shrink. While under mild sedation, a doctor known as an interventional radiologist, makes a small incision at the top of your legs and runs a small catheter through your uterine artery. A specialized gel is injected into targeted areas that blocks blood flow to the fibroids causing them to shrink and die. The procedure removes fibroids without interfering with fertility.
The entire procedure takes less than an hour. One study shows women have a shorter hospital stay, return to work faster and have fewer complications with this procedure compared to having a hysterectomy. Ninety percent of women were satisfied or very satisfied with their results during their final medical visit.
- Laparoscopic or robotic myomectomy
This procedure involves surgery to remove the fibroids, but leaves the uterus in place. Depending on the size of the fibroids, the surgeon may be able to remove them with laparoscopic or robotic technology, which uses smaller, less invasive pieces of equipment to get the job done. The surgeon uses computer monitors to see inside your uterus and maneuvers the tools to cut the tumors out. The smaller equipment requires a smaller incision, which improves recovery time and minimizes scars.
Making a treatment decision can be difficult, but your doctor can recommend the best options for your situation. In addition to consulting your doctor, it’s a good idea to do your own research and ask questions about various treatments. You should only move forward with treatment when you’re ready to do so.