|Susan K. O’Horo, M.D., is an interventional radiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. (Photo courtesy of Brigham and Women’s Hospital)|
The causes of and treatments for uterine fibroids will be the focus of a women’s community health seminar on Tuesday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Brookline Public Library in Hunneman Hall at 361 Washington St. in Brookline. The program is being hosted by Dr. Susan O’Horo and Dr. Serene Srouji of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Doctors have good news for women with uterine fibroids. Whereas once the only option was surgery, a less-drastic solution may help sufferers of uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are the most common benign tumors within the female reproductive system. The majority of uterine fibroids are diagnosed and treated in women between the ages of 35 and 54, but fibroids can and do occur in women under the age of 35. Clinical studies also note that African American women are more likely to develop uterine fibroids than are women of other racial groups.
Many women who have uterine fibroids may not even know it. Fibroids can range in size from very small (less than an inch) to very large (about the size of a cantaloupe). Fibroids can grow in, under and outside the lining of the uterus. Most women discover that they have fibroids during a routine gynecological exam. The most common symptoms caused by fibroids are heavy or painful bleeding, a feeling of fullness in the pelvic area, urinary frequency and pain during intercourse. Fibroids only require treatment when they are symptomatic.
More than 600,000 women undergo hysterectomies in the United States each year and many of these surgeries are to treat uterine fibroids. But some doctors believe that many of these surgeries can be avoided by using less-invasive procedures. In fact, according to medical studies, nearly 90 percent of hysterectomies are performed for benign tumors. A hysterectomy is the complete removal of the uterus, which requires general anesthesia, up to four days of hospitalization and, usually, five to six weeks of recovery time. A hysterectomy may also be associated with potential physical, emotional and sexual complications, and eliminates any chance for future pregnancy.
Fortunately, doctors say there’s a better way to treat uterine fibroids. Numerous studies confirm the efficacy and safety of Uterine Fibroid Embolization, or UFE, as an alternative treatment option to a hysterectomy. UFE was developed more than 10 years ago, and about 20,000 women in the U.S. have this procedure every year. “Many women are reluctant to undergo major surgery with longer recovery times and would prefer a less invasive procedure which allows them to return to the normal activities within a week or two,” Dr. Susan O’Horo, interventional radiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said.
During a UFE procedure, the interventional radiologist (IR) injects tiny particles into the blood vessels to block the blood supply and shrink the fibroids. The procedure is performed in about an hour and does not require general anesthesia. The recovery time is much shorter than surgery’s, and most women are back to work within a week. For many women, UFE has been a welcome alternative to hysterectomy.
“I researched treatment options for my uterine fibroids online and found UFE. I suffered from very heavy bleeding, but didn’t want to go through surgery and a long recovery,” said Cathy, 49, a patient treated at Brigham and Women’s Hospital by Dr. O’Horo. “With UFE, my recovery was not painful, and I was back to normal after two weeks. My periods are so much lighter now, and I can wear something other than black pants! I’m very happy with the outcome.”
Results of a recent five-year study reveal that more than 75 percent of women experienced significant long-term relief after UFE. Additionally, because UFE maintains the uterus, there is still a possibility of pregnancy after UFE, although it’s not recommended. Furthermore, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) includes UFE as a treatment option for uterine fibroids in its brochure.
For more information about treatments for uterine fibroids, you can attend a free women’s community health seminar on Tuesday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m. Two physicians from Brigham and Women’s will discuss this women’s health issue including treatment options available, and they will answer questions. Also, a patient who experienced fibroids will be on hand, and she will discuss how she successfully overcame them. Refreshments will be served, and the presentation will last approximately one hour. The program is free and open to the public. Space is limited, so please make a reservation by calling (800) BWH-9999 or (800) 294-9999.