To Your Health: Treat uterine fibroids with minimally invasive procedure
BY DR. KEVIN KEELE Board-certified interventional radiologist/Ingalls Memorial Hospital May 13, 2014 9:16AM
Dr. Kevin Keele | Supplied photo
Updated: June 15, 2014 6:08AM
Three out of four women in the United States have uterine fibroids, noncancerous tumors of the uterus.
If you or someone you know experiences heavy bleeding, prolonged periods, pelvic pain or pressure, frequent urination, constipation and other uncomfortable symptoms, you or she may be one of them.
About 30 percent of all women will get uterine fibroids by age 35, and about 70 to 80 percent of women will do so by age 50.
The incidence of uterine fibroids is especially high among black women, who also are more likely to experience them at a younger age. As women age, fibroid growth rates decline for most, but not for black women. Other risk factors include having a Body Mass Index (BMI) above the normal range, that is, being overweight or obese.
The good news is that fibroids are not associated with cancer and don’t increase the risk of getting uterine cancer.
They can, however, cause other problems that may interfere with a woman’s quality of life or lead to more serious health issues, including anemia and reproductive problems such as infertility, multiple miscarriages and early onset of labor during pregnancy.
Composed of smooth muscle cells and other tissue that develop within the wall of the uterus, fibroids may grow as a single tumor or in clusters. A single fibroid can be microscopic in size or can grow to eight inches or more across.
In many cases, a single uterus can contain many fibroids. Most fibroids range from about the size of a large marble to slightly smaller than a baseball.
Many women with uterine fibroids experience no signs or symptoms, or only mildly annoying signs and symptoms that they can live with. In addition, women approaching the menopausal transition may find that their fibroids shrink as their estrogen levels decline. If that’s the case for you, watchful waiting and a yearly pelvic exam may be the best option.
However, about 30 percent of women experience symptoms severe enough to require intervention. If your fibroids are larger, growing rapidly, and/or causing discomfort, you may want to schedule more frequent exams, consider using ultrasounds to monitor their growth, and pursue treatment.
Treatment for uterine fibroids
If you or someone you know suffers from uterine fibroids that are interfering with quality of life or having a negative impact on health, there’s a safe, nonsurgical alternative to hysterectomy available at Ingalls Memorial Hospital called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). In fact, Ingalls was the first in the area to introduce this innovative technology nearly a decade ago.
UFE relieves the symptoms of fibroids while allowing a patient to avoid surgery such as hysterectomy.
During a UFE procedure, an interventional radiologist uses an X-ray camera called a fluoroscope to guide the delivery of tiny particles to the uterus and fibroids. The small particles are injected through a thin, flexible catheter inserted through the groin. These particles then block the arteries that provide blood flow to the tumors, causing the fibroids to shrink.
The entire procedure takes 60 to 90 minutes and is performed under local anesthesia. Most patients are observed and discharged the next day.
Benefits include a more rapid recovery and return to normal activities; virtually no blood loss; less pain; and reproductive organs and supporting structures remain intact.
Nearly 90 percent of women with fibroids experience dramatic relief of their symptoms following UFE.
Because the effect of uterine fibroid embolization on fertility is not fully understood, UFE is typically offered to women who no longer wish to become pregnant or who want or need to avoid having a hysterectomy, which is the surgical removal of the uterus.
If you’re interested in learning more about uterine fibroids and UFE, plan to attend a free program, “Uterine Fibroids, Treatment Options,” at 6 p.m. May 21 at the South Holland Community Center, 501 E. 170th St., South Holland.
Interventional radiologist Dr. Kevin Keele will discuss fibroids, symptoms and treatment options.
A light supper will be provided for those who preregister for the program.
For more information about uterine fibroids or to register for this free program, call Ingalls Care Connection at (708) 915-2273.
Dr. Kevin Keele is a board-certified interventional radiologist at Ingalls Memorial Hospital. Ingalls is a member of the Southland Health Alliance.