Uterine fibroids—it’s not something most of us enjoy talking about. Like a heavy menstrual cycle or urinary incontinence, fibroids can cause embarrassment and inconveniences, and worst of all, severe pain.
Chances are you have had or will experience uterine fibroids in your lifetime. These non-cancerous tumors grow within the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus. The tumors are not typically dangerous and do not spread within the body, but some women experience several negative side effects.
Many women will develop uterine fibroids at some point during or after their child-bearing years. 70 percent of Caucasians and 80 percent of African Americans are diagnosed with fibroids by age 50, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. However, 5 to 10 percent suffer from side effects including heavy bleeding, infertility, pelvic and/or back pain and fullness in the abdomen.
To read more about the symptoms of uterine fibroids, click here.
Bringing personal experience to patient care: Meet Cindy.
Cindy Greenwood is a Nurse Practitioner at Virginia Interventional and Vascular Associates (VIVA) who treats women coping with uterine fibroids. Cindy knows firsthand the intense pain and side effects of invasive fibroids. Here is her story:
“I experienced heavy menstrual periods with severe abdominal cramping. I was also going to the bathroom every hour due to frequent urination. The heavy bleeding led to feelings of embarrassment, and I often did not want to leave the house in fear I would soil my clothes. The pain was so intense I had to take ibuprofen on a regular basis. Since the procedure, my menstrual flow has significantly decreased, I am able to leave my home with more confidence, and I no longer need ibuprofen during my period.” -Cindy Greenwood, NP
Three reasons uterine fibroids should not be left untreated.
Since 90 to 95 percent of women do not experience any symptoms, many decide to forgo treatment. There are some potentially harmful side effects of leaving uterine fibroids untreated, however.
Harmful effects of ignoring uterine fibroids:
- Continued growth of fibroids can cause pelvic pain and worsen abnormal bleeding and lead to anemia.
- Fibroids can negatively affect fertility. By blocking the fallopian tubes, fibroids can block a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus which can also lead to ectopic pregnancies.
- Pregnant women with fibroids are at increased risk for premature delivery.
A Treatment for Uterine Fibroids You Need to Know About
According to Dr. Samer Hijaz, Board Certified, Fellowship Trained Interventional Radiologist at VIVA, women are often told that they can either leave their fibroids untreated or undergo surgery. Dr. Hijaz explained that there is a “middle ground”.
“Unfortunately a lot of the women who we see in our clinic here are not aware of all of their treatment options when it comes to uterine fibroids,” Dr. Hijaz said. “A lot of women are educated on the surgical options, but they come to us wanting to know a little bit more about the minimally invasive solutions.”
For over 20 years, a procedure called uterine fibroid embolization or UFE has offered women relief from fibroid symptoms. The process of shrinking fibroids through Interventional Radiology has made it possible to successfully treat the non-cancerous tumors without surgery.