Treatment Options For Uterine Fibroids
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are benign, non cancerous tumors that originate within the uterus. They range in size from a microscopic seed up to a small basketball. These tumors are almost always benign so rarely lead to cancer – but can impact fertility and cause symptoms such as abdominal pain and discomfort, constipation, heavy periods, urinary tract disorders and anaemia.
Most women will develop uterine fibroids at some point in their lives. Many live with the symptoms without too much difficulty – in fact some may never know they have fibroids. However, some women suffer with symptoms which can significantly impact their quality of life. More than 200,000 hysterectomies are performed each year in the USA for uterine fibroids.
Considerations When Choosing A Treatment Option
There are several factors to consider when deciding if a treatment option is right for you. These include the size and location of the tumors, medical history, family planning goals, severity of symptoms and your stage of life.
Fibroids often grow to a size requiring treatment when women reach their 30s and 40s, sometimes at a point when they are trying to become pregnant. Retaining the ability to have children is an important consideration when evaluating if a treatment option is suitable for you. The traditional treatment option, a full hysterectomy, will remove the uterus and permanently remove your ability to have children.
Improvements in medical technology means there are now several fibroid treatment options that allow women to maintain fertility. These are available on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. Fibroid tumors often shrink when a woman completes menopause because the tumors are dependent upon the estrogen in the bloodstream available prior to menopause. Researchers have also found that the tumors develop more often after the age of 35 and rarely before the age of 20.
Doctors may have a preference of one type of treatment over the other based upon their experience with the treatment option and their success rates. However, it is important you are aware of all the available options so you can make an informed choice about the treatment option that best fits your lifestyle. Some of the most common options are outlined below.
In the early stages of development, you may not be aware you have fibroids. Often they are too small to be picked up during a physical examination. Sometimes women have no symptoms at all and the physician may find the fibroid tumors during an annual pelvic examination. In these early stages, the best option is watchful waiting. If there are no symptoms or the fibroids are not located near the openings to the vagina or fallopian tubes there is no need to start treatment if you plan to get pregnant.
Watchful waiting involves monitoring the growth of the fibroids with regular check ups. In some women the fibroids may never grow to a size that requires further treatment or suffer significant symptoms. In other women the tumors will grow consistently over time and will require further treatment.
Alternative Medicine And Natural Treatments
Alternative medicine physicians offer natural fibroid treatment plans to shrink the size of existing fibroids and decrease the symptoms associated with them. There are several approaches to shrinking fibroids – including full body detox, diet changes, supplements and herbal remedies.
Many women have had success following holistic programs such as the Fibroids Miracle by Amanda Leto – which walks you through how to shrink your fibroids for good. It combines several natural treatment options into a holistic treatment plan.
Prescription Drugs And Medications
Pharmaceutical treatment options typically include the use of birth control pills – that can help stop excessive bleeding caused by the fibroids. These can carry some risk of potentially dangerous side effects such as high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. While birth control pills have limited relief on the symptoms, once they have been stopped the fibroids tend to grow back in force. Birth control pills are also (obviously!) not a viable option if you are trying for children.
Another option in the pharmaceutical arsenal is a class of drugs called
“gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists” or GnRHa. These are actually hormones used to decrease the production of estrogen – which is known to stimulate fibroid growth. This is a short-term treatment (three to six months) because it can cause rapid bone loss leading to osteoporosis. The best use of this treatment is to decrease the size of tumors prior to a planned minimally invasive procedure or to allow for a vaginal hysterectomy.
This procedure removes the lining of the uterus to help decrease menstrual flow or stop it completely. The uterus lining is normally lost on a monthly basis during the menstrual cycle, but this procedure helps control very heavy bleeding. There are several methods available for the procedure including using laser, wire loops, boiling water, electric current, microwaves and freezing. The procedure does not require hospitalization and is often performed in outpatient clinics. Most women can return to normal activities within a day or two.
Uterine Artery Embolization
Uterine artery embolization or uterine fibroid embolization are procedures done in the radiology department by an interventional radiologist. A catheter is inserted into the femoral artery and manipulated to the uterine artery where it delivers mechanical blocks that clot the blood supply to the fibroid. The procedure takes approximately 1 hour and data suggests that women are able to return to work within 10 to 14 days. This particular option preserves the uterus and attempts to preserve as much fertility as possible.
Other surgical procedures include a hysterectomy which can be done either vaginally or abdominally. This is a major surgery and the end result of both options is a total loss of fertility. Recovery time and the pain associated with each procedure, however, is vastly different. If the uterus is small enough physicians will opt to do a vaginal approach which will decrease recovery time and improve pain management.
Hysterectomies can also be total, meaning removal of the cervix as well as the uterus and ovaries, subtotal which leaves the cervix or partial which only removes the uterus. A radical hysterectomy in which the cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries are also removed with the uterus, is usually reserved for cancer situation in which the spread of the cancer cells is a higher risk that must be addressed.
Another option is a myomectomy which is the surgical removal of the fibroids themselves while keeping the uterus intact. This works well for fibroids which are growing outside the uterus or those which are growing inside the uterus. Fibroids growing in the wall of the uterus may not be possible to remove using this procedure. This is a surgically challenging procedure and is not performed by all physicians.
There are several treatment options now available which can maintain fertility and at the same time decrease the symptoms associated with uterine fibroids.
Some women prefer to try natural treatments before resorting to drugs or surgery. You should discuss the treatment options right for you with your healthcare professional.
If you are looking to shrink fibroids naturally then it’s worth checking out the Fibroids Miracle program. They have a good video explaining what it’s about and many testimonials from women who have tried the program and seen results. You can read a review of the program here.