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Uterine Fibroids: Treatment Options

Updated on November 24, 2012

When my family doctor discovered that I had a large uterine fibroid, a benign tumor in the wall of my uterus, she told me I would need to have a hysterectomy. That was devastating news to me because of the impact major surgery would have on my overall health. Luckily, I did some investigating and discovered I have a variety of options for dealing with this fibroid.

Do nothing
Estrogen enlarges fibroids, thus they shrink after menopause, reducing or eliminating problems associated with them. Taking this course depends on how close a woman gauges she is to menopause and what sorts of problems the fibroid is causing. In my case, the fibroid is causing excessive blood loss during menstruation, resulting in anemia. Though I've shown signs of the onset of menopause, I have yet to skip a period and it could be years yet before I do.

Shots that create menopausal conditions
Monthly shots of a drug called lupron create a temporary, artificial menopausal state in a woman's body. I'm considering this, though I don't know how long a doctor would consider keeping me on it. As with any drug, there's a chance of unpleasant side effects. Lupron shots are said to be expensive, but I doubt they're as expensive as even a simple surgery would be.

Focused Ultrasound
This is a relatively new technology with limited availability. Using MRI imaging, focused ultrasound is used to damage and kill the fibroid. The dead fibroid won't grow any further and will shrink. The extent to which it will shrink depends on how calcified it is.

Uterine artery embolization
This procedure involves making a small incision in the thigh and inserting a catheter that emits particles into the blood stream that blocks the blood flow to the fibroid and killing it. Though it is minimally invasive, an overnight stay in the hospital is typical due to cramping and fever. Emolizations are done by interventional radiologists, a medical field I had never even heard of before this. This is currently the treatment I would prefer. An MRI is required to determine whether a woman is a good candidate for embolization.

Many people are familiar with laparoscopy as a low impact form of surgery. The incisions are small and recovery time is much faster than traditional surgery. Get more than one opinion on whether you are a good candidate for a laparoscopy. I had one experienced doctor say that he could do a laparoscopic hysterectomy on me and a less experienced doctor say he couldn't. I have also read of instances where a woman went into surgery thinking she was having a laparoscopy and the surgeon had to revert to a traditional open belly procedure due to complications (for instance, the fibroid attaching to other organs).

Traditional Surgery
A large incision and 4 to 6 weeks of recovery for a hysterectomy.

What I have provided is very general and sketchy information. I suggest doing some internet research as well as talking to two or three doctors. The website is a tremendous resource for women considering a hysterectomy for any reason. It is full of helpful advice from women who have been through the different procedures. I would not have learned about all of the options above without that site. Best of luck finding the right solution for you.


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    • Jen Pearson profile image

      Jen Pearson 6 years ago from Alabama

      Wow, I can't imagine the discomfort you must have had with that. On the hystersisters site, there are a lot of positive comments from women who have had the traditional procedure. They're so relieved to be shed of the health problems they were having that it was well worth it. For those who have options, it's really a very personal decision and I think it's great that there are now several alternatives. I just wish doctors were more conscientious about explaining all those options to women.

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 6 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      I, too, had uterine fibroids. Like you, I researched all of the many options available...unfortunately I really had no other options besides a hysterectomy because there were so many fibroids and they were very large. My doctor and my surgeon had never seen blood levels as low as mine and me not being hospitalized...when I had my surgery, my surgeon said he had never seen fibroids as large as mine and, in his words, "had delivered babies smaller..." Luckily, I was over my childbearing years and closer to menopause, so I was ok with the surgery option...

      Good luck with whatever decision you choose...