Uterine Fibroids: Treatment Options
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.
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.
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).
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 hystersisters.com 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.