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Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumours that develop on or within the muscular wall of the uterus. Fibroids are the most common benign tumours in women. It is estimated that fibroids become clinically relevant in about 25 % to 35 % of all women aged between 30 and 50 years. Typically, women who have uterine fibroids have more than one fibroid and they can vary in size. Some are no bigger than a pea, while others can grow to the size of a melon.
A woman may experience symptoms like excessive menstrual bleeding, painful periods, bleeding between periods and backache. In a significant number of patients, the amount of bleeding would be so much that it would cause anaemia. Anaemia can cause fatigue, headaches and light-headedness. When the fibroids become bigger in size, they exert pressure over other pelvic organs and can result in a feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen, frequent urination, difficulty in passing urine and constipation. These symptoms can make one feel low, less attractive, and irritable that further may reduce sexual desire and impact personal life.
Traditionally, uterine fibroids treatment ranges from monitoring the fibroids or administering medications to relieve the symptoms, to more invasive surgical approaches, such as myomectomy and hysterectomy. Hysterectomy is a surgery performed to remove a woman's uterus and cervix. In all cases, menstruation stops and a woman loses the ability to bear children. Myomectomy removes uterine fibroids, without removing the uterus. However, it is not suitable for all types or locations of fibroids and does not remove the possibility of fibroid recurrence. The drawbacks have made it less popular than hysterectomy in the management of fibroids.
Uterine fibroid embolization is a novel minimally invasive non-surgical procedure that alleviates various fibroid symptoms and decreases fibroid size in a safe and effective way by blocking blood flow to the fibroids, causing them to shrink significantly. A UFE procedure is performed by a specially trained vascular interventional radiologist doctor. It involves making a pinhole (less than 1 mm size) opening in the groin or wrist area through which a thin plastic tube called a catheter is inserted and threaded into the blood vessels supplying the fibroids. Tiny particles are then inserted that block blood supply to the fibroid. UFE is less invasive, safer than surgery, has minimal complications and has no scarring. It does not require general/spinal anaesthesia. Patients receive same-day treatment using UFE and can generally return back to work and daily activities within a week. Above all, it allows women to maintain their uterus, which retains their ability to get pregnant in the future.
It is not uncommon to see that many women keep on suffering from fibroids since they are not willing to undergo surgery, they don't want to lose their uterus, and they were not given any other option besides surgery. Unbeknownst to these women and millions of other women throughout this country, there is another choice. A completely non-surgical choice, one that allows women to keep their uterus, but one that often goes unmentioned to these suffering women. This procedure is uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) and is truly a major advance in women's health.
(The article is contributed by Dr Santosh B. Patil, Consultant Neuro and Vascular Interventional Radiologist, The Vein Center)
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