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Posts tagged ‘Uterine artery embolization’

Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Fibroids

So, you’ve just found out that you have fibroids – don’t panic! Here’s what you need to know right now:

1.      Fibroids are benign (noncancerous) tumors that grow inside the uterus. According to research, approximately 1 in 5 women will develop fibroids during their childbearing years.

2.      Fibroids take years to develop/grow but there are warning signs:

  • Have you noticed that you’ve become lethargic lately?
  • Are you out of breath after climbing a short flight of stairs?
  • Have you been bleeding a lot more than normal during your menstrual cycle?
  • Is your menstrual cycle lasting longer than usual?
  • Is there abdominal swelling?
  • Do you have back pain?
  • Is there unexplainable weight gain?
  • Are you urinating frequently?

3.      Anemia: Iron deficiency is common among women with fibroids and your doctor will insist that you begin taking supplements immediately.

4.      Iron and vitamin C:  Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron so it’s important that you take these two together. To that end, why not have a glass of orange juice with your iron supplement? Or, why not make lemonade, but instead of using sugar use blackstrap molasses?

5.      Distended abdomen: This is where things start to get ugly. It’s bad enough that you are now, probably anemic, having back pains, bleeding uncontrollably, etc. There’s one more surprise waiting for you. As the fibroids grow, your uterus will expand and your abdomen will become distended – that is, you will look like you’re pregnant.  Say goodbye to your waistline.

6.      Bloating: Another common symptom of fibroids. It’s important that you listen to your body to discover the pattern. In my case, it usually begins at least one week before my cycle commences and ends a few days after.

7.      Fibroids are not life threatening.

8.      Fibroids are more common than you think – mention it to a few of your friends and you’ll be surprised at how many have been suffering in silence.

9.      No one knows for sure why fibroids develop.

10.    Treatment options:

  • Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE): This is a minimally invasive procedure that blocks blood supply to the fibroids by inserting a catheter into the uterine arteries. The entire treatment typically lasts less than an hour and the patient is required to remain in the hospital for another 24 hours for observation. To learn more, see:
  • Myomectomy: In this operation, the surgeon removes the fibroids leaving the uterus intact. Note that with this procedure, fibroid regrowth may occur.
  • Hysterectomy: This is a surgical procedure in which the uterus is removed – an option for women who have no desire to become pregnant.
  • MR Guided Focused Ultrasound: This is a non-invasive, outpatient procedure in which high doses of focused ultrasound waves are used to destroy uterine fibroids.

Fibroids, Begone!

April, 2009: the date of my appointment to discuss my candidacy for uterine fibroid embolization (UFE).  In preparation for the big day, I watched a video of the procedure. I watched it several times actually, until I was comfortable. You can see it here:

A friend asked: “Why are you watching this? Are you going to get up in the middle of the procedure and declare ‘you’re doing it wrong!’ then do it yourself?” That made me laugh. But in all seriousness, watching the procedure made me less nervous and more confident about my decision. I really needed to know exactly what they were going to do to my body.

The big day finally arrived and I was greeted by a very warm and caring nurse in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, who, after showing me to the exam room, proceeded to get the required information from me.  She was very thorough and actually made me feel quite comfortable. She confirmed that I looked like I was six months pregnant. Then it was the doctor’s turn.

After reading my chart, he explained the procedure and while I had done my homework and knew almost everything he was telling me, I must admit that I was not aware of the potential side effects. They include the possibility that your period could stop for a few months, chronic pain, pelvic pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting, and fever. Please note that serious complications are not very common.

What really surprised me however, was the knowledge that it could take approximately six months after the procedure for the fibroids to shrink. Also, the fibroids wouldn’t shrink completely – their size would be reduced by about 60 – 70%.  You see, I naively thought that once I had the UFE done, my belly would return to its usual size and everything would be wonderful – no, the doctor said, you need surgery for that. And, the side effects of surgery are far worse.

He asked about my symptoms – I had none. “Then why do you want to do this?” Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the fact that I looked like I was six months pregnant! The first seed of doubt was planted though, and I then wondered if I was doing the right thing.

To determine whether or not I was a good candidate for UFE, I was asked to do an MRI and an endometrial biopsy.

Dear Fibroids: I’m really beginning to hate you!

The date: February, 2009. I have been managing my fibroids now for about a year and a half. Although the size of my belly kept fluctuating, I had figured out the pattern. There were no more back pains, menstrual cycle was normal, and my iron level was good. I sometimes had problems with frequent urination but it was manageable.

What I recall is that I had a visit from my Aunt who then asked me to make one of my skincare products. (I don’t usually keep stock in the house.) A trip to the hair salon had left her a bit bald and she was desperate for a product to fix it. Before preparing the formula, I sterilized all the containers and utensils, then disinfected the countertops with bleach. After about two hours, she had her product. Nothing unusual, I thought.

However, a few days later my belly literally doubled in size!

Pre-fibroids, I don’t think I truly understood how one’s self esteem can be  intricately intertwined with body image. Most women are sensitive about their weight. Not me. But then I didn’t have to be, I was always skinny. My Achilles heel is my skin. I am obsessed with skincare and the idea of flawless skin.

Yet, in February 2009, as I stared in the mirror and saw my image, I was crushed. I had a distended abdomen and looked heavily pregnant. My self esteem plunged. From that point on, I stopped looking in the mirror – I hated what I saw, so what was the point? When I tried on one of my favorite J. Crew dresses and realized that it no longer fit, I got really angry.

Suddenly, the natural route wasn’t cutting it. I wanted an immediate solution to the problem – the fibroids had to come out. No more molasses, no more research, just get them out – now!

With that in mind, I made an appointment with one of the radiologists on the Web site. Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) was the route I wanted to take. It’s less invasive than surgery and the process typically lasts less than an hour. For more information see