More Options To Treat Fibroids

Many middle-aged women a have bothersome fibroids -- benign tumors that can cause lower pelvic pain or pressure and abnormal uterine bleeding. A majority of these women will need to be treated with hysterectomies. But a new study shows that there are other options.

Myomectomy is a surgical procedure that removes fibroids. It usually takes at least two-and-half days to perform and requires "a more substantial incision," according John C. Lipman MD, the medical director at the Center for Minimally Invasive Therapy (Atlanta). His findings were presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology's annual meeting.

He says that 81% of the women who underwent uterine embolization (a nonsurgical procedure) reported significant improvements in their symptoms. This improvement can be achieved with "only one-day in hospital" and a very small incision.

Uterine embolization (or uterine fibrid embolization) is a procedure that releases small particles into the blood vessels. This leads to the formation of fibroids. Robert Vogelzang MD, professor of radiology, Northwestern Medical School, Chicago, and past president of Society of Interventional Radiology, says that the pellets "work like plugs" or corks.

Without blood the Fibroid "liquefies and dies" without it. Lipman states that the symptoms will usually vanish once this happens.

Women with fibroids can experience discomfort from fibroids pressing against the bladder and other pelvic organs. You may experience lower pelvic pain or excessive menstrual bleeding.

Study comparing 149 patients who received UFE to 60 who were myomectomy. He says that both procedures helped to improve symptoms. Women who chose UFE returned to their normal activities in two weeks. This was a significant difference from women who underwent surgery which took about a month. He says this was especially interesting because the UFE-chosen women had more fibroids than those who had surgery and more problems with their menstrual cycles.

UFE isn't for everyone Lipman advises that UFE may not be for you. He says that UFE doesn't work for all women. "About 10% of them don't get a positive outcome and surgery is still an option."

Carla Dionne founder of Uterine Fibroid Foundation, says that many women are unaware about the "options". Dionne tells WebMD that she was first diagnosed with uterine fibroids at the age of 28. Dionne says she had to choose surgery as the only choice, even though she didn't want it because she wanted more children. After her first child, she was diagnosed with fibroids. She then had two more children and continued to suffer from fibroids.

She suffered from symptoms like backache, incontinence and terrible bleeding for the next 19-years. She said that she had experienced all of these symptoms.

Dionne's mother wrote a note in 1999 with the phrase 'embolization' written on the corner. Her mother said that Scott Goodwin MD (University of California Los Angeles Radiologist) reported on her research. She says, "He was treating women suffering from uterine fibroids by embolization."

She finally reached out to Goodwin after several false starts. She says, "I had the procedure done in December. Within two weeks the urine frequency disappeared."

In a matter of a month, her anemia had disappeared and she was back at work five days per week. She says her first period went well in three months.

Dionne and a few other women that she had met through an online support group for fibroids founded the UFF a year later. It is located in Colorado Springs, Colo. where Dionne lives.

Dionne insists that UFE for women suffering from fibroid is not the best option. Dionne says, "Many women wish surgery." Its goal is to educate and support women in order for them to make informed choices.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has softened its position on UFE, which could be considered a significant step in women's education. ACOG has maintained for years that UFE is an experimental procedure. However, it issued a statement in January that acknowledged that embolization, when performed by qualified physicians, can provide short-term relief to the appropriate candidates. ACOG points out that women need to be examined by an ob/gyn first.

Lipman is also a radiology specialist and believes that the ACOG statement reflects his current practice. "It was that my patients found me via the internet. Now, almost three-quarters are referred from gynecologists.