An estimated 20 to 80 percent of women will have a uterine fibroid by the time they reach 50, according to the Office of Women’s Health. For many women, the fibroids – noncancerous growths that form in the muscles and fibers of the uterus – will simply require monitoring rather than treatment.
But if the uterine fibroids grow, they can cause problems, including extreme pain and bleeding. There was a time when a hysterectomy – the surgical removal of the uterus – was the only treatment option for some women with extreme symptoms.
Today, there are a variety of options depending on the severity of the fibroids. These include:
- Medication: options vary based on symptoms
- Myomectomy: surgical removal of uterine fibroids
- Endometrial ablation: disintegration of the uterine lining
- Hysterectomy: surgical removal of the uterus
- Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE): a minimally invasive and nonsurgical treatment, one of the newer treatment options for fibroids
About Uterine Fibroid Embolization
“Almost every woman that has uterine fibroids is a candidate for this procedure,” said Paola Devis, MD, an interventional radiologist at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and the University of Arizona Cancer Center.
Dr. Devis said research has shown UFE to be safe and effective, and it has several advantages over surgery.
“Given that it is minimally invasive, recovery is faster and complications are less frequent,” she said. “Certain complications that can be seen after surgery, such as injury to nearby organs, are not seen following UFE.”
How UFE Works
A UFE starts with a tiny incision in the skin after you’ve sedated. Then, the doctor feeds a small tube called a catheter through the incision into an artery while an interventional radiologist uses an X-ray to see where the catheter is going. UFE works by cutting off the blood supply to the fibroid, which causes the fibroid to shrink and symptoms to become less severe or stop altogether.
What to Expect Afterwards
“With our current pain management and minimally invasive techniques, a UFE can even be performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning you may go home the same day,” Dr. Devis said. Most women can get back to their daily life within a week of the procedure.
There are many factors that go into determining the best course of treatment. This includes a woman’s age and whether she wants to become pregnant in the future. If you have uterine fibroids, discuss your options with your physician. And, never be afraid to ask for a second opinion.