How Are Fibroids Treated?
For women diagnosed with uterine fibroids that are not experiencing any symptoms, there is no treatment necessary. If you are suffering from painful symptoms caused by uterine fibroids, it is important that you learn about all the available fibroid treatments so you can make the best decision for you.
If you are interested in a non-surgical fibroid treatment, set up a consultation at The Atlanta Fibroid Center as your OB-GYN will very likely only offer surgical fibroid treatment options.
Treatment For Uterine Fibroids
Most women who are diagnosed with uterine fibroids and suffering painful symptoms will eventually seek treatment. There are some different fibroid treatment options available but unfortunately, most women are only informed about the surgical options available. While surgery is necessary in some rare cases, it is not usually the best treatment for fibroids.
Available treatments for uterine fibroids include medical management, fibroid surgery (myomectomy and hysterectomy), and non-surgical procedures such as UFE.
Hormones and Other Medications To Shrink Fibroids
Most doctors try to use hormones and over-the-counter medications as the first line of treatment for fibroids and their symptoms. Non-steroidal over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as Naproxen, Motrin, or Ibuprofen can help alleviate mild pain and symptoms. Another option that can help control bleeding and pain, but won’t shrink or eliminate fibroids, is an intrauterine device (IUD) that releases the hormone progestin or oral contraceptives.
GnRH agonists can be used temporarily (less than 6 months) to retard the growth of fibroids. They only work while they are in your system and fibroids will return to their former growth patterns when the medication is stopped. This treatment for fibroids may induce early menopause and other unfavorable side effects.
Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs)
These medications can mimic or block the effect of estrogen within a woman’s body. They are often used to treat osteoporosis and certain types of breast cancer. There have not been adequate findings recorded indicating if fibroids shrink as a result of using selective estrogen receptor modulators to target estrogen levels. SERMs are not widely considered effective as a fibroid treatment.
Natural Fibroid Reduction
Experts have not successfully determined a cause for fibroids but they do have data highlighting factors that help them grow. Many foods and products contain ingredients that can interfere with the natural estrogen production in the body which can promote the growth of fibroids and even cause certain cancers.
Many women are strategically making lifestyle choices to avoid foods and products that can cause fibroids to grow as well as incorporating exercise and a healthy diet as a holistic treatment for fibroids. Some of the measures that can be taken as a more natural approach in the treatment of uterine fibroids include:
- Choosing foods that can help balance estrogen levels and not increase them;
- Getting adequate rest;
- Avoiding self-care and beauty products containing estrogen-altering additives;
- Exercising and sustaining a healthy weight to avoid excess fat being converted to estrogen;
- Vitamin D and iron supplements are important to help keep estrogen within balanced levels.
Surgery to Eliminate Fibroids
There are a few different types of surgery that are used to remove fibroids from the uterus. These are often the only options women are given as treatment for uterine fibroid symptoms.
Myomectomy is performed by an OB/GYN under general anesthesia; a myomectomy removes fibroids one at a time using one of several available myomectomy techniques. A myomectomy often leaves the uterus compromised and weak, requiring a C-section if the patient ever becomes pregnant. There is also a chance of future fertility issues due to uterine scarring.
Myomectomy techniques include:
- Open myomectomy – the most invasive myomectomy technique where fibroids are accessed through a “bikini cut” incision in the lower abdomen. Recovery is 4-6 weeks.
- Laparoscopic myomectomy – fibroids are accessed and removed through small abdominal incisions using a special scope that contains a tiny camera and an instrument used to remove the fibroids. A 2-D image is projected on a screen for the surgeon to view the surgical site. Recovery time is about 4 weeks.
- Hysteroscopic myomectomy – can only be used to remove submucosal fibroids. The surgical tools are inserted through the vagina and cervix without incisions. A light or tiny camera is sometimes used along with a special loop-like tool that uses electricity to remove the fibroid. Recovery time is typically a few days.
- Robotic-assisted myomectomy is a more high-tech approach to a laparoscopic myomectomy using robotic arms controlled by the surgeon who is sitting at a terminal viewing the surgical site in 3-D. Robotic arms mimicking the surgeon’s movements can be more precise and move in ways the human hands can not. Recovery is about 4 weeks.
It is important to note that myomectomy surgery typically can not address all types of fibroids or fibroids that are too numerous. Any fibroids that remain after surgery will continue to grow, and new ones may also grow. Many women will experience a recurrence of fibroid symptoms within 5 years of their myomectomy and will require another procedure.
Hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus by an OB/GYN through surgery. Each year over 600,000 hysterectomies are performed and only 10% of these are medically necessary. Uterine fibroids are one of the most common reasons a hysterectomy is done.
A hysterectomy is performed under general anesthesia and requires a hospital stay. During the procedure, the surgeon can remove the entire uterus or just a portion of the uterus. The cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes may also be removed.
A hysterectomy not only removes a woman’s ability to become pregnant, but can also increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, mental health issues, and many more health-related issues.
Hysterectomy techniques include:
- Abdominal hysterectomy – the uterus and possibly other reproductive organs are removed through a C-section type incision in the abdomen. As the most invasive type of hysterectomy, this requires a hospital stay and 6-8 weeks of recovery time.
- Laparoscopic hysterectomy is performed using a laparoscope (a lighted instrument equipped with a camera) through very small abdominal incisions. The laparoscope fed through the belly button visually assists the surgeon in removing the uterus. Specialized instruments are inserted through a few other small abdominal incisions and the uterus is detached and removed. Recovery time is between 5-6 weeks.
- Robotic-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy – the technique and surgery steps are the same but robotic arms are holding the instruments instead of the surgeon.
- Vaginal hysterectomy – the surgeon removes the uterus and possibly the cervix, fallopian tubes, and one or both ovaries through the vagina using the laparoscopic technique. Recovery time is about 4-6 weeks.
Non-Surgical Fibroid Treatment
Endometrial ablation is not a fibroid treatment but it is performed to alleviate heavy bleeding caused by fibroids. The procedure destroys the layer of the uterine lining that normally builds up and is shed during the menstrual cycle. There are several techniques used to perform uterine ablation including electrosurgery, cryoablation, free-flowing hot fluid, heated balloon, microwaves, and radiofrequency. After endometrial ablation, a woman cannot get pregnant.
The Best Fibroid Treatment Without Surgery – Uterine Fibroid Embolization
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a technique that does not involve surgery or a hospital stay. This minimally invasive procedure, performed by an Interventional Radiologist, stops all fibroids from growing by cutting off their blood supply. The lack of a critical blood supply, causes the fibroids to shrink and the painful symptoms of fibroids are alleviated.
UFE offers many benefits over surgical options. Myomectomy is often not effective in removing all fibroids and there is a high rate of recurrence. Some of the many benefits of UFE include:
- UFE addresses every type of fibroid, no matter the size, location, or type.
- UFE can eliminate all the fibroids with one 45-minute procedure.
- After UFE, patients return home to recover with only a bandaid.
- Most patients are back to their normal routine in a week.
- UFE Results have been clinically proven to be 90% effective in relieving fibroid symptoms.
- Many patients with previous fertility issues were able to conceive and have successful pregnancies after UFE.
- Most women report that their fibroid symptoms were eliminated within three months after the procedure.
- UFE can alleviate symptoms from fibroids pressing on the bladder.
- UFE is an effective:
- intramural fibroid treatment;
- subserosal fibroid treatment;
- treatment for large fibroids.
Many people think that UFE is a new treatment for fibroids without surgery but the procedure has been around for over 30 years. Dr. John Lipman at the Atlanta Fibroid Center has over 26 years of experience performing UFE and has helped over 10,000 women become fibroid free.