Having been diagnosed with uterine fibroids and enduring the symptoms of fibroids can be overwhelming. The good news is that surgical removal of fibroids or complete removal of the uterus are no longer the only options for you to consider. You may want to explore the newest uterine fibroids treatment options and a few other alternatives to fibroids surgery. With this information you can make a more informed decision.
What Methods Can Be Used To Diagnose Uterine Fibroids?
The majority of women who have fibroids are unaware. With few or no symptoms, the presence of fibroids is not an issue. However, if you are one of the smaller percentage of women with medium to severe symptoms, then your doctor will want a conclusive diagnosis before considering treatment for fibroids. Review the list of options available to make the case.
- An ultrasound may be a wise choice as the procedure will confirm the presence and will also help to determine if there are possibly multiple fibroids to deal with, unusually large fibroids or maybe your fibroids are near the cervix opening. If a vaginal exam does not conclude anything, yet you are experiencing unusually heavy or irregular bleeding then an ultrasound scan is an excellent choice.
- A hysteroscopy examines the inside of the uterus and inner lining, checking for abnormalities and growths that may be fibroids. A small telescopic camera lens is inserted through the vagina.
- A laparoscopy procedure is where a small incision allows for inserting a flexible camera lens that helps to determine if the uterus is enlarged or has any fibroid growth on the outside.
- Your doctor may decide that a biopsy should be performed before considering treatment options.
Medications For Shrinking Fibroids And Reducing Symptoms
GnRHA injections (gonadotropin released hormone agonist)
The objective with GnRHA injections is to diminish estrogen production. This medication helps in two ways – shrinking uterine fibroids and stopping the menstrual cycle. If you have been experiencing excessive or irregular bleeding and your doctor believes it is caused by fibroids, then you make a good candidate for this type of drug. Lupron is the most recommended drug in this class.
The downside to GnRHA is that it can only be taken for a few months due to side effects of which the most serious is potential for loss of bone density (osteoperosis). Once off the medication, the fibroids will likely begin growing again, and symptoms will return. GnRHA is more of a temporary bridge solution before trying a more permanent treatment for uterine fibroids, or it might be recommended to shrink fibroids prior to having surgery to remove them.
GnRHA nasal spray
Synarel is a new, more convenient and less expensive option for GnRHA delivery. The drug is absorbed through nasal tissues and comes in a spray. The objective for the medication is to greatly reduce the body’s ability to produce estrogen and progesterone. With much lower levels of these hormones available, fibroids will shrink and symptoms will be reduced as well.
Again this is only a temporary option because of the side effect of bone loss and simply because the drug only works while it is being used. There is no build up and once the medication is stopped, the fibroids will grow back quickly. But GnRHA is a very good option in cases where the patient is experiencing very heavy bleeding and is at risk for anemia. It may also be prescribed prior to surgery if very large fibroids are present or if excessive bleeding during surgery is a concern.
Birth Control Medications
Oracle contraceptives have been known to have a mild positive effect on reducing the size of fibroids or the symptoms. If you are experiencing heavy or irregular bleeding, a common symptom, then birth control can be very effective in reducing the bleeding.
Fibroids Treatment Through Least Invasive Procedures
Focused Ultrasound Therapy
Similar to an MRI, use of focused ultrasound waves to destroy fibroid tissue with heat is less invasive than surgery and is becoming popular in cases where the fibroid tumors are not overly large or widespread. The scanner is used to locate a fibroid and then multiple, short bursts of ultrasound energy is used to increase the temperature of the tissue until it disintegrates.
This procedure will only be recommended to patients not wanting any more children or are past child bearing years. Because this treatment option is quite new it is not fully clear what side effects could develop over the long term. It does seem to be effective without major short term problems. In cases where the fibroids are growing aggressively, or are very large, the ultrasound treatment does not seem to be effective by itself and may have to be performed along with other treatments.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
Another new, non-surgical option for fibroid treatment is uterine fibroid embolization. This option is safer than surgery but it is more invasive than ultrasound treatments and it is nearly as expensive as surgical options.
A small incision is made from the thigh as access is needed to the femoral artery. A catheter is inserted and is used to follow the artery to the uterine artery that provides blood to the uterus. Typically a contrast dye is used to aid the radiologist in navigating, and once in position a special polyvinyl material is injected that permanently blocks a percentage of the blood flow and oxygen to the uterus. Less blood flow means the fibroids and symptoms are lessened.
This is a new and popular option for managing fibroids but there clearly are risks. There is a fairly significant risk that the patient would have difficulty getting pregnant once having gone through this procedure. Other side effects are possible as well, so the decision for doing the UFE treatment is not one to take lightly.
More Invasive Surgeries That Are Still Less Risky Than Fibroid Removal Options
This procedure is performed in the exam room and takes only minutes and can be an effective treatment for fibroids without surgery to actually remove them. A lining in the uterus is destroyed by subjecting it to a microwave energy pulse or in some cases extreme focused heat or cold. The instruments are inserted through the cervix so no incision is necessary. Once this lining is treated then the most likely benefit is permanent stopping or reducing of menstrual flow, cramping and pressure. Small fibroids can effectively be managed or reduced as well.
If you are still considering having children then endometrial ablation is not a good option, just like many of the other traditional treatments. Having the lining damaged does not prevent pregnancy but it dramatically increases the odds for miscarriage in future pregnancies.
Surgical Removal of Fibroids
A myomectomy is surgical removal of fibroids from the uterus. There are several ways to accomplish this, and the best method to recommend depends on the patient’s health status.
A laparoscopic myomectomy involves a small incision below the pubic hairline where the surgical instruments are inserted for the procedure. Additionally another incision is made in the naval so a small electronic scope can be inserted for a view of the uterus and pelvic area during the procedure. The procedure is best effective as a fibroids on the uterus treatment, meaning the fibroid tumor growths are on the outside. Incisions are made and small pieces are extracted until all the fibrous material is removed.
This process has risks of course, but it also only treats the symptoms by removing the fibroids. Another concern is that if the patient has any history of uterine cancer then removing and extracting fibroid material could spread pre-cancerous cells throughout the pelvic region.
A hysteroscopic myomectomy has the same objective and is less invasive. No incision needed. Instead, the surgery is performed by accessing the cervix. This is only effective for fibroids that are internal. The risks for removing fibrous materials is a bit less since the procedure is not accessing the pelvic cavity.
Lastly, an abdominal myomectomy might be necessary if fibroids are larger or more widespread. A much larger incision is required from navel to top of the pubic bone, due to the need for more access. The objective is the same, removal of fibroid material in tiny pieces. The result is the same but recovery time is longer.
Hysterectomy To Remove The Uterus
A hysterectomy is the most precise and permanent method for fibroid removal but obviously is the most invasive and life changing as well. The objective of the procedure is to detach the uterus from the vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes and surrounding tissues. Often the procedure can be performed through the vagina but in some cases surgical incision through the abdomen is necessary. If the uterus is enlarged or there are many, large fibroids present then the abdominal incision becomes the only option for removing the uterus.
Natural Fibroid Treatment Options As A Safer Alternative
There are drawbacks to each of the traditional treatment options for fibroids. This includes infertility and a number of health risks. There is another major limitation to trying most of the treatments we have already discussed. What would that be? Traditional treatments only help with reducing symptoms in most cases. What about doing something to address the causes of the fibroids? That is where natural fibroid treatment options deserve consideration, because there are a number of ways to help the body heal itself and prevent or control the causes of your fibroids.
Combinations of precise dietary changes, homeopathic treatments, natural hormonal therapies and environmental or chemical awareness can prove very effective in shrinking or even completely eliminating uterine fibroids. Fibroids are just a symptom of hormonal and chemical imbalances. Natural treatments are designed to normalize the body and take away the environment that has been encouraging fibroid growth and allow the body to heal. We highly recommend a resource called Fibroids Miracle that will guide you through a personalized strategy and give you one on one access to the author for advice. You can have expert knowledge of your own body and what specific combination of treatments will work for you. The book is easily worth the cost and will save you much time, money and frustration in the long run. A link to the official site is below if you would like more information.
Since fibroids are not cancerous and typically are not by themselves life threatening, you have the time to explore options that are safe and target the source of the problem. There are cases where traditional treatments are important but it is prudent to research and try alternative fibroid treatment options first.
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Hi, I'm Jenny Lee and women's health and fitness is my passion. Hope you stick around!