Being diagnosed with uterine fibroids can bring along a range of emotions. On one hand, you may be relieved to have answers for the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. On the other hand, now you might be wondering what your different treatment options are. If you’re considering Uterine Fibroid Embolization, or UFE, our teams at North Texas Fibroids in Dallas, Cedar Hill, and Flower Mound, TX, are here to help.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Symptomatic Fibroid Sufferers
There are many people with uterine fibroids that have mild or no symptoms, but if you’re considering Uterine Fibroid Embolization, you’re probably not so lucky. The discomfort associated with fibroids can range per person, but there are several common symptoms that can disrupt the ability to work, or even comfortably perform daily tasks.
Women With Heavy Menstrual Cycles
Periods are bad enough, but when you throw uterine fibroids into the mix they can become even harder to manage. Heavy bleeding is frequently seen in patients with uterine fibroids, and many patients don’t know their period is abnormally heavy until they compare it with what other women experience.
If you find yourself weak and anemic during your period, bleed for longer than seven days at a time, or pass clots that are the size of a quarter or larger, your period can be considered heavy.
Working With a Heavy Period
Some women even report bleeding so severe that they have to wear a pad and tampon at the same time and change them out frequently throughout the day. Not only is this level of bleeding uncomfortable, but it can also make working during your period very challenging.
These women may find themselves running to the bathroom every few hours to carefully change out their sanitary products, hoping they don’t end up with blood on their clothes. Some women may have to either call out or work from home during the heaviest days of their period. If you find yourself in a similar position, and your heavy cycles are due to fibroids, it may be worthwhile to consider treatment.
Those With Severe Pelvic Pain
Fibroids can make cramps especially painful, and at times it can be severe enough that patients have trouble finding relief even with painkillers. If your cramps are so severe that you have trouble even standing up straight on your worst days, it may be time to look into treatments that can provide lasting relief.
Patients Who Have To Urinate Frequently
This symptom can range from a mild annoyance to a real problem. Running to the restroom throughout the day may not be fun, but it’s not always a big deal. However, if you’re waking up with a pressing need to relieve yourself, this can lead to fatigue during the day since it can be hard to get a restful night’s sleep.
In the worst cases, this symptom can lead to urinary incontinence, where a patient loses control of their bladder. In addition to urinary issues, fibroids can also cause constipation.
Those Who Don’t Want Surgery
Surgery can be an effective treatment for uterine fibroids, but it comes at a cost. Surgery can be hard on the wallet, but it also tends to be fairly disruptive. Many patients don’t want to have to stay at the hospital or worry about a lengthy, painful recovery period. Even if you can afford the surgery, you may not be able to take off as much time as you need for recovery.
Preference aside, some women can’t seek out surgery for a variety of reasons. You may be able to afford it and take the time off work, only to discover a health factor that makes surgery unsafe for you. If you find yourself in a position of either not wanting or not being able to seek out surgical fibroid treatments, UFE may be a good fit for you.
Women Who Want to Keep Their Uterus Intact
A hysterectomy can cure your fibroids by removing the uterus altogether. Without a uterus to make their home in, uterine fibroids just won’t come back, and as such the symptoms associated with them should dissipate as well. Whenever possible, ovaries will be left in place during a hysterectomy so early menopause isn’t triggered.
Hysterectomies can sometimes be performed laparoscopically, vaginally, or through robotic approaches that can make it less invasive and reduce recovery time when compared to traditional approaches. It’s a very effective treatment, but it’s not one that should be chosen lightly.
A Hysterectomy May Require a Hospital Stay
Pain relief should be provided after a hysterectomy as patients recover, but even with the help of medication, you will likely need to rest at the hospital for a few days after your surgery.
The Recovery Can Be Uncomfortable
When you do get home, the return to normal life can be lengthy. It’s difficult to nail down an exact recovery timeline, as it can partly depend on things like your age and activity levels. In general, you may have to wait up to six weeks before you can return to your pre-hysterectomy activity levels.
The incision itself may be uncomfortable for a while after your surgery. Some patients experience itching and bruising, while others experience numbness around it. In cases where your ovaries are removed along with your uterus, this will immediately trigger the start of menopause as well.
Hysterectomies Can Be an Emotional Process
Even when women aren’t planning to become pregnant, losing their uterus can feel like losing a part of their identity. Patients who thought they were ready to be done with their uterus may be surprised by how much of a loss it can be, and even if they enjoy not having to deal with their period anymore, they may find themselves sad about it at the same time.
Hysterectomies may be the right or necessary call in some cases, but many women can avoid these issues by seeking out alternate treatments. UFE is a treatment that tends to be much easier on the body and can be a better fit for those who want to keep their uterus.
Uterine Fibroids Can Cause Pain in Other Areas
Painful sex is something that can be very distressing when sex is supposed to be a time to bond with and enjoy your significant other. Some women can find relief from this symptom by trying out different positions that put less pressure on their fibroids, but others may avoid intercourse completely due to the pain associated with it. Fibroids may also cause some bleeding after sex. If painful intercourse is negatively affecting your life, the right treatment can help.
When you think of fibroids causing pain, you may think it’s limited to the pelvic area. Women who are suffering from pain in their lower back and down their legs may not consider that their fibroids could be to blame. This pain is due to the fact that uterine fibroids can sometimes push up against the muscles and nerves along your back.
How Uterine Fibroid Embolization Works
The First Step
UFE is carried out by an Interventional Radiologist, or IR, whose focus and training specifically revolve around minimally invasive treatments. First, after you come in for a consultation, we may run you through some tests to make sure this treatment is the right fit for your needs. Once you have the all-clear, the actual treatment itself usually lasts an hour or less and will start with a very small incision in the femoral artery.
Once they have access to the femoral artery, the IR will gently guide a catheter through it and into the uterine artery, and finally right up to the fibroid. Specialized X-ray equipment helps them with the guiding process.
The Second Step
Once the fibroids are reached, it’s time to inject the embolic material into the blood flow that’s feeding them. The tiny spheres will block off the fibroid’s feeding supply, which in turn will “starve” the fibroid since it needs blood and oxygen to grow.
This material will stay where it’s put permanently, ensuring that the fibroid continues to shrivel up over time. Treatment is carried out over both sides of the uterus through the same small incision, which will likely be closed with a vascular closure device once the treatment is complete.
The Final Step
After the treatment, our team will watch over you for a little while. Once the watching period is up, you’ll be home free. Throughout the entire process, from beginning to end, we will be there for you to answer any of your questions and concerns.
When your treatment is complete, we’ll send you home with discharge instructions so you’ll know exactly what to expect. As your welfare is our top priority, we’ll also have you back in for a visit about a week after treatment, and then another visit three months after treatment.
Uterine Fibroids FAQ
1. What Are They?
Uterine fibroid are basically benign tumors, which means they’re almost always non-cancerous. We say “almost” because there are some rare cases where they could be cancerous, especially if they are growing rapidly after menopause. That said, benign fibroids are very common and can present as a single growth or grow in clusters. Small fibroids may not require treatment, but some fibroids can grow to eight inches or more, with some reaching the size of a watermelon.
To put things into perspective, your uterus is generally the size of a pear, so the larger these fibroids are, the more likely you are to notice painful symptoms. Fibroids can grow in the uterus itself, but they can also develop within the wall or on the outer wall of the uterus.
2. What’s the Cause?
Unfortunately, we don’t have that answer yet. We do know they’re most likely to develop in women who are in their childbearing years. The reduction of estrogen in post-menopausal women seems to make them less likely to suffer from fibroids, and girls who haven’t reached puberty usually won’t have fibroids, either.
3. What Does Fibroid Pain Feel Like?
Women who have symptomatic fibroids may feel a sharp, stabbing sensation, especially when pressure is put over the fibroid. For others, it’s more of a dull ache.
It’s important that instead of trying to diagnose yourself, you try to seek out an official diagnosis when you have troubling symptoms. Being officially diagnosed can also help you keep track of their size so you can determine if and when it’s time to seek out treatment.
4. How Are They Diagnosed?
When you have your diagnosis, we welcome you to reach out to our team so we can help you decide on a treatment plan to manage your symptoms. Fibroids can sometimes be discovered during a pelvic exam, but other diagnostic tools can be used as well. These can include:
- CT Scan
Our Team Has What It Takes To Help
If you’re ready for a consultation, we’re ready to answer all your questions about uterine fibroid embolization. We have offices in Dallas, Cedar Hill, and Flower Mound, TX. Reach out to North Texas Fibroids today and learn more about how we can help improve your symptoms.