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Fibroids: What are they and how they can be treated

Last month, Jeanne and I had the opportunity to attend a seminar held by The Fibroid Treatment Clinic in conjunction with The White Dress Project, aimed to educate people on fibroids, help those who might think they have fibroids and to share stories of people who have had undergone treatment.

We first heard about The Fibroid Treatment Clinic when Jeanne interviewed Dr Maja on One Fm. During the interview they talked about fibroids extensively, as well as the event, encouraging anyone who was interested to come and find out more.

For those who didn’t make it, but want to know more, I am going to give you some information about fibroids and what The Fibroid Treatment Clinic covered at the event.

What are fibroids?

Fibroids (or Uterine Fibroids) are benign (non-cancerous) growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus.

They are more common than we think, with up to 40% of women aged 35 and older suffering from uterine fibroids.

What are the symptoms associated with fibroids?

Some of the most common symptoms associated with fibroids are:

  • Heavy periods,
  • Abdominal pain,
  • Painful intercourse,
  • Pressure symptoms on the bladder and bowel,
  • Back pain,
  • Abdominal enlargement, and
  • Fertility/pregnancy problems.

What are the causes of fibroids?

Some of the most common causes of fibroids are:

  • Hormones, and
  • Family history.

What are the risk factors of fibroids?

Some of the common risk factors associated with fibroids are:

  • Family history,
  • Pregnancy (hormones),
  • Increased body weight,
  • Race (More women of African descent suffer from fibroids),
  • Age: 30+, and
  • A poor lifestyle (including diet and exercise).

How can fibroids be treated?

Fibroids can be treaded in two ways:

  • Through medication, or
  • Through surgery.

The most common surgical procedures include:

  • Myomectomy,
  • Hysterectomy, or
  • Uterine Artery Embolisation. This is the option The Fibroid Treatment Clinic offers.

By using UFE as a treatment, The Fibroid Treatment Clinic ensures that their patient keeps their womb intact, giving them the option to conceive and have a family in the future.

What is UFE?

UFE is a micro-invasive permanent treatment for women suffering from uterine fibroids.

How does UFE work?

UFE is performed in a hospital by an interventional radiologist – a medical doctor who has special training in images guided micro-invasive surgery.

Here’s how UFE works step-by-step

  1. Through an artery in the wrist, the radiologist guides a thin tube (catheter) into an artery which is threaded to the uterus.
  2. Microscopic polymer beads are infused into the blood vessels supplying the fibroids.
  3. The fibroids are starved of their nutrient blood supply and shrink. Periods then improve immediately.

How does a patient feel after the UFE procedure?

  • After the procedure, there may be a dull ache which feels simial to period pain in the lower abdomen. This pain is due to the arteries in the fibroids shutting down and is managed with medications.
  • The skin incision is so small, there is no need for stitches.
  • Patients go home the day after the procedure or as soon as she is comfortable.
  • Patients return to normal activity usually one week after the procedure.

What are the benefits of UFE?

  • Lower complication rate,
  • No scar and no stitches,
  • The uterus and ovaries are preserved,
  • Much shorter hospital stay and recovery time,
  • The doctors can control the bleeding better, and
  • Long-term success rate as good (or better) than major surgery.

It’s good to know that the majority complication rate of UFE is three times lower than surgery, which is significantly lower.

The risks of UFE

  • Sometimes, fibroids do not shrink sufficiently the first time which means that some patients might require another procedure.
  • Infection can occur, as with all medical procedures.
  • Hormones can be affected by the procedure but, in the vast majority of women, this is temporary.
  • The risk of early menopause after UFE is the same for women who have had surgery.

But what about UFE and pregnancy?

  • Currently, a subject of international research and opinions vary.
  • All patients are advised by an experienced obstetrician or fertility specialist.
  • Myomectomy is considered the better option if possible. There are many women in whom the fibroids are too large, meaning surgery is considered too risky. This is where UFE comes in, as it is performed in high-risk cases.
  • Pregnancy after UFE is possible, and the Fibroid Treatment Clinic has successfully treated women who were advised that they would not be able to bear children.

If you suspect that you might have fibroids, the best thing you can do is visit your gynaecologist, share your thoughts and suspicions and get referred to or talk to the FIbroif Treatment Clinic. They will be able to tell you what your options are in order for you to move forward with treatment to better your overall standard of life.

Disclaimer: A lot of the information I have used has come directly from the Fibroid Treatment Clinic’s pamphlet, ensuring that you are receiving nothing but the correct information from the experts themselves. The rest of the information I have gathered while at the seminar and have collated and added where needed. 

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