If you have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, you're probably relieved to finally have an explanation for your pain, heavy periods, and abdominal swelling. On the other hand, you're now faced with the challenge of going through treatment for your condition. Uterine fibroids are quite common among women, and so researchers and doctors have put a lot of time and money into developing various treatment options, each of which works well for women in different circumstances. Here's a look at some of the options your doctor may discuss with you.
This treatment is becoming increasingly common, as it allows you to keep your uterus. It is performed by a vascular radiologist and involves feeding a special catheter through an artery in your groin. The catheter is guided into the artery that supplies blood to the fibroid, and then a gel-like substance is released. This substance cuts off the blood supply to the fibroid, which causes it to shrink and die.
Fibroid embolization is usually performed in the hospital; you may have to stay overnight for observation. However, there are no large incisions made (just a tiny cut near your groin), and you'll generally be left awake -- though sedated -- during the procedure.
If your fibroids are small and are not causing overly serious symptoms, your doctor may recommend attempting to shrink them with hormone therapy. You may be given a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (Gn-RH agonist) that causes your body to release less estrogen and progesterone, in turn causing the fibroids to shrink. Your menstrual cycle should cease, so you no longer have to deal with painful, heavy periods.
If your fibroids are very large or are not responsive to hormone therapy, then your doctor may advise that you have your uterus removed in a procedure called a hysterectomy. Your ovaries are often left in place, as long as they are healthy, so that you continue producing female hormones and do not need to take hormone replacement supplements. Today, most hysterectomies are performed using robotic tools inserted through small incisions, rather than through a large incision in the abdomen. You will need to rest for a few weeks to recover, but a hysterectomy is the only procedure that prevents fibroids from ever coming back again.
Fibroids vary greatly in size and severity. Talk to a physician at a location such as DeSoto Memorial Hospital to learn more about these treatments and to decide which is best for you.