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Choices in fibroid care

Women have options to treat uterine fibroids

MORE THAN HALF OF WOMEN eventually develop fibroids, which are noncancerous tumors in the uterus. Most of the time, fibroids don’t produce any symptoms and cause no problems, but when they do, women may experience: 

  • Heavy menstruation requiring more than 10 pads or tampons each day. 
  • Periods lasting longer than a week. 
  • Pain or pressure in the pelvic area. 
  • Frequent or difficult urination. 
  • Pain during sexual intercourse.
  • Constipation, bloating or abdominal swelling.
  • While the exact cause of fibroids is unknown, genetics or hormonal changes can contribute to their growth. 

Many women diagnosed with uterine fibroids are told a hysterectomy is their only option for relief, but often fibroids can be treated with more conservative or noninvasive options. Depending on a patient’s age or medical history, a doctor may prescribe birth control pills or an intrauterine device (IUD). Both can decrease bleeding and pain caused by fibroids. 

If those measures are not effective, advanced procedures such as uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) can be considered. In this nonsurgical procedure, radiologists insert a tiny tube into the uterine artery to cut off the fibroid’s blood supply, causing it to shrink. This procedure is done under twilight sedation, takes less than two hours, and will not leave any scars. It’s an option for women who do not want surgery, may not be good candidates for it, or who want to keep their uterus. One out of 10 patients may need a hysterectomy after UFE within five years. 

If you suspect you have uterine fibroids, talk to your gynecologist about treatment options.

DR. MERVE OZEN is a professor of radiology in the Uterine Fibroid Program at UK HealthCare.

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