Although uterine fibroids can be cured quickly and safely, there are many myths about this condition. You could hear some of them. Let’s try to figure out where is the truth?
Dispelling Top 10 Myths About Fibroids
1. My Gynecologist said fibroids only affect women in their 30s or 40s.
-While that is a common time to experience symptoms from fibroids, many women, particularly African-American women, suffer in their 20s. Afr-Am women also tend to have bigger and more numerous fibroids, which make them more likely to need subsequent treatment. We also see many women in their 50s that suffer with fibroids.
The procedure is performed by an Interventional Radiologist (not a Gynecologist), takes 30-40 minutes, and patients go home the day of the procedure with just a bandaid !
2. My Gynecologist said once medical treatment fails you must have surgery or continue to suffer with the symptoms.
-Medical treatment often consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (exs. ibuprofen, tranexamic acid) or oral/IUD/implantable hormonal medication. While they can help some, very often these do not help enough and in some cases make the symptoms worse.
Once the woman fails medical therapy, surgery is often the next option given without any regard for less-invasive, safer, non-surgical choices like UFE. UFE has the highest success and longest track record of safety and effectiveness than any other nonsurgical treatment option. There are over 1 million women currently in the United States that suffer with fibroids in silence. They don’t want surgery, but have not been told about UFE (i.e. the nonsurgical choice).
3. My Gynecologist gets a pelvic ultrasound every year to see if my fibroids are growing, and if they do, it’s a sign that they’re a cancer.
-Uterine fibroids are benign, non-cancerous tumors. As a benign tumor, they will grow; sometimes rapidly under influence of primarily estrogen. That’s why fibroids often grow rapidly with pregnancy, and why they are usually not an issue once a woman goes in to menopause.
Getting yearly pelvic ultrasounds to evaluate growth of fibroids is completely unnecessary. Treating fibroids does not depend on growth, but rather symptoms. Fibroids that show interval growth, but do not cause symptoms are almost never treated.
4. My Gynecologist said that hysterectomy was my only option to treat my fibroids.
-While hysterectomy is most commonly performed for uterine fibroids, this should instead be an absolute last resort option. Numerous studies have shown that most women who suffer with uterine fibroids never hear about nonsurgical options like UFE.
5. My Gynecologist said if I wasn’t interested in children, I didn’t need my uterus any longer.
-The uterus has many important functions; only one of which is the ability to bear children. The uterus is the epicenter of the female identity, and the loss of the uterus can affect a woman psychologically like a man who has been castrated. A number of women have sexual dysfunction after hysterectomy (exs. loss of orgasm, loss of libido). Many women leak urine after hysterectomy requiring them to wear an adult diaper.
Keep in mind that the average age of hysterectomy in the US is less than age 40 years (i.e. young women). The uterus is very important in bone health and even cardiovascular health, and women who undergo hysterectomy less than age 50 are placed at a higher risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke.
6. My Gynecologist said, if I have any interest in having children, I can’t undergo UFE.
-Dr. Lipman has seen numerous births following UFE; even 4 set of twins ! The births are typically full-term and vaginal. The surgical treatment is called a myomectomy. Unfortunately, myomectomy has a number of significant shortcomings. The first is that it is a surgical procedure that is done in the hospital under general anesthesia. Second, it typically doesn’t remove all of the fibroids, and in a number of women, it doesn’t even remove half of them.
These fibroids that are left behind after surgery will immediately start to grow and most women need a second procedure within 5 years, and over one-third will need another procedure within 3 years. In addition, every myomectomy patient needs to sign a waiver stating that she understands that while she wants a myomectomy, she could wake up after surgery with a hysterectomy.
7a. My Gynecologist said that I was not a candidate for UFE because my fibroids were too big.
7b. My Gynecologist said that I was not a candidate for UFE because I had too many fibroids.
To understand who might or might not be a candidate for UFE, you need to know how UFE works. Under x-ray guidance, a tiny catheter (the size of a piece of spaghetti) is advanced in to each uterine artery. The uterine artery branches like a tree resulting in smaller and smaller branches as you get to the periphery of the tree. That’s where the fibroids are. The fibroids are the “leaves” of the tree. Tiny particles (like grains of sand) are injected to plug up these tiny fibroid branches. The big trunk and main branches stay open which keep the uterus alive and healthy. However, without a blood supply all of the fibroids should die. As they do, the fibroids soften and shrink and a woman’s symptoms begin to disappear. Now that you know how UFE works, it is easy to understand that it does not matter if you are treating a tree with one leaf or one hundred. It also doesn’t matter what size the leaves are either.
8. My Gynecologist said that if you undergo UFE you won’t be able to have a child.
-Over 60% of patients that are interested in fertility have children after UFE. These patients are usually in their late thirties or early-mid forties where fertility is lower due to age compared with fertility patients that are often much younger.
9. My Gynecologist said that if I have UFE, it will hurt my ovaries and I will go in to menopause.
-While menopause can be seen after the UFE procedure, in the ~9,000 UFE procedures performed by Dr. Lipman over the past 25 years, this has never occurred in any woman under the age of 40. This is usually the category of women that express a possible or definite interest in fertility. For a woman 40-45 years of age, this is seen in 1-2% of cases. Women over 45 are typically not interested in fertility, but even in women 45-50 years of age they go in to menopause after UFE in <10% of cases.
10. My Gynecologist said that if I get a UFE, I will need a hysterectomy anyway.
-While a woman could ultimately choose to get a hysterectomy if her symptoms are not adequately addressed after UFE, this rarely happens.
To learn more about UFE and uterine fibroids contact Atlanta Fibroid Center at 770-953-2600 or make an appointment online at ATLii.com.