Women suffering from back pain, pelvic pressure, frequent urination or abnormal periods, uterine fibroids could be to blame. Fibroids are non-cancerous growths found in the uterus and can range in size from very small to the size of a cantaloupe or larger. Now, there's an improvement to uterine fibroid embolization -- a treatment that's becoming the procedure of choice for many women.
Sabrina Figueroa considers herself a regular walker. She says, "Walking feels good, and it's a way to de-stress, kind of de-stress, before I go home." But a painful fibroid the size of an orange got in the way of her past time. "The major symptom that I had was the pressure on my bladder and frequent urination."
Researchers say, "Many women have fibroids. The question of symptoms, when that presents itself, then, it's an issue of whether they should be treated or not."
Hormone therapy can help shrink fibroids, and a momentum removes them. A hysterectomy is often a last resort. "The number of hysterectomies performed in the [United States] per year is in the neighborhood of 600,000; 200,000 of which are performed because of fibroids," Dr. Zwiebel says.
Uterine fibroid embolization has become an alternative for most patients because it's less painful and less invasive. One of the main advantages is you can treat multiple fibroids at multiple different locations.
Now, new key players are these tiny beads called "microspheres." Unlike larger materials used to cut off blood flow, the microspheres block smaller vessels by going further into the artery. "And the uterine tissue, the muscle, or lining of the uterus, remains intact and takes up contrast, meaning that there's still blood flow to those areas," say Specialists.
Total shrinkage of the fibroids can take up to six months. But just a week after treatment, Figueroa noticed a difference. She says, "The first night and second night I think I slept through the night."
And during the day, she can walk without worrying about the pit stops.
Between 80 percent and 90 percent of women who have uterine fibroid embolization experience some or total relief of heavy bleeding, pain and other symptoms. Although uterine fibroid embolization leaves the uterus intact, no studies have been done to determine long-term effects on fertility. However, many women have had the procedure and gone on to become pregnant.