Fibroids, or non-cancerous tumors found within the uterine walls, afflict women of all ages and races. Oftentimes, symptoms are non-existent. However, when symptoms develop, they can become debilitating. For a woman’s well-being, fibroids may become a very big problem. And the common solution is even bigger – most women are instructed by their gynecologists to undergo a hysterectomy.
One study cited by the National Institute of Health found that 80-90% of African American women and 70% of white women in the U.S. develop uterine fibroids by age 50. Once diagnosed, research shows that 90% of women will seek a surgical solution for their condition within a year. But, if you’re still in your childbearing years or even if you’re not ready for the repercussions of losing your uterus, surgery can seem unbearable.
The good news is that a non-surgical solution to your fibroid pain and uncomfortably heavy menstruation has been developed by Dr. John Lipman. He is an annual panelist at the Women’s Health Conference, and suggests Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) as an effective alternative to hysterectomy.
Fibroids and Women’s Health
While uterine fibroids aren’t usually cancerous or dangerous, they can severely encumber daily life. Your 40s and beyond are great years for your body and enjoyment of life. Exploring new challenges and spending time with family and friends shouldn’t be compromised by fibroids.
But when you’re suffering with symptoms such as: heavy menstrual bleeding, sometimes lasting more than two weeks, pelvic pressure or pain caused by the growing mass, frequent urination, difficulty with urination, constipation, and back or leg pain, it could be difficult to focus on anything else. While some women choose to live with the symptoms, a survey found that work, social life, and physical activities are hindered.
There are non-surgical management methods for fibroid symptoms, as some women opt to live with them. Let’s break down these management methods from the National Women’s Health Network:
- Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for mild pain.
- If you experience heavy bleeding, you can take iron supplements to prevent anemia.
- Low-dose birth controls or progesterone-like birth control (i.e. Depo Provera or Mirena) can also control heavy bleeding.
- Discontinuation of estrogen use in order to shrink fibroids.
- Change your diet: a diet rich in whole grains and Vitamins B and E can help lower excessive estrogen levels. Soybeans and soy products are also helpful because they are rich in plant estrogens, which also lower estrogen levels. Eat fish that has high levels of linolenic acid, which helps alleviate cramps. Experiment with avoiding dairy products, meats that are high in saturated fats, alcohol, and excess salt in order to reduce cramping and pain.
Managing pain and symptoms doesn’t cure your fibroids, but it can help while you evaluate your options. In the long run, you shouldn’t have to manage pain when you have the opportunity to treat its cause.
Why Are Hysterectomies the Common Cure for Fibroids?
The National Women’s Health Network estimates that approximately 600,000 hysterectomies are performed each year in the United States. And what’s the number one reason for hysterectomies? Fibroids.
It’s no surprise that hysterectomies end fibroid symptoms because the surgery removes the problem. But sometimes, women aren’t prepared for the after-effects of a hysterectomy. The NWHN believes that health care providers should recognize the value of a woman’s reproductive organs. Hysterectomies can be life changing, not to mention a costly procedure that requires recovery time and time off work.
When talking to your gynecologist about fibroids, they will likely discuss hysterectomies because these surgeries have been curing female ailments for centuries. Additionally, gynecologists are responsible for performing these surgeries, so it’s the treatment they’re most familiar with. But other solutions should also be discussed to determine whether or not serious surgery is necessary. Which brings us back to Dr. Lipman and the question of whether or not surgery is necessary for curing fibroids.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization
Dr. John Lipman is an important figure for conversations in women’s health because he specializes in interventional radiology, which delivers minimally invasive, image-guided, targeted treatments. One of those treatments is the UFE, a non-surgical alternative solution to hysterectomies as treatment for fibroids.
Dr. Lipman has been giving patients back control of their lives since 1995 when he completed his first UFE, and here’s how it works. UFE uses a real-time x-ray to guide a small catheter inside a woman’s body to deliver embolic agents to block specific arteries. This outpatient procedure robs the fibroid of its blood supply so the mass shrinks.
What’s the best part, according to Lipman? “My patients go home with a bandaid,” said Dr. Lipman. “That’s it.”
Effectiveness of UFE in Treating Fibroids
In one study published by the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 88 percent of patients who underwent UFE for symptomatic fibroids reported improvement or stabilization of symptoms. Another radiology information site claimed that “90 percent of women experience significant or complete resolution of their fibroid-related symptoms.”
A major benefit of this non-surgical procedure is that it spares a woman’s fertility. A study published in the National Library of Medicine researched the fertility of patients after UFE procedures. Researchers included 15 patients aged 32-39 who underwent the UFE treatment and decided to conceive. Of the 8 women actively trying to conceive, they experienced 10 live births within the first two years following their procedures. This study saw reduction in fibroid symptoms, positive fertility, and a high quality of life – all without surgery.
So, can you get rid of fibroids without surgery? Yes! Do the work of researching this option for you personally or someone you care about. UFE is worth looking into for management of symptoms, cost savings and preservation of a woman’s well-being.