Abnormal bleeding. Pelvic pain. Backache. Not long ago, a woman either suffered with fibroids or surrendered her uterus. But modern medicine offers many better options.
Abnormal but non-cancerous, uterine fibroids affect more than 50 percent of all American women, a figure that jumps to 80 percent among African Americans. Fortunately, most women never even know they have the growths until their gynecologists tell them so.
But those who experience fibroid’s most troublesome symptoms crave relief from the abnormally heavy or long periods, intermittent bleeding, backaches, pelvic pain, uncomfortable sex and other problems caused by the benign masses. At their worst, fibroids can even result in infertility, premature labor and miscarriage.
Not too long ago, a woman had two choices: Suffer through fibroid’s woes to preserve child-bearing and hormone-producing abilities, or undergo a hysterectomy to surgically remove the uterus, host to the unwanted growths.
Modern medicine offers many better, and less dramatic, options.
“Today, we have a range of approaches—medical, surgical and non-surgical— to help women with fibroids,” says James Robinson, MD, Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “When surgery is the answer, many procedures are minimally invasive, performed on an outpatient basis and using small incisions and precise targeting for less pain and a quicker recovery.
“Some procedures can even get rid of the tumors while preserving the uterus and ovaries. That allows for future pregnancies and hormone production, which is important for healthy aging.”
And if a woman and her doctor decide that removal of the uterus is the best approach? Fear not, Dr. Robinson says.
“This isn’t your mother’s hysterectomy. Whenever possible, we’ll leave the ovaries intact so you won’t automatically go into menopause.”
The exact cause of fibroids is still unknown, although heredity, race and obesity all play a role. While today’s procedures can successfully remove existing lesions, others may grow afterward. At this time, the only way to rid the body of fibroids completely is a hysterectomy.
But Dr. Robinson cautions that a diagnosis of fibroids doesn’t mean you should be overly concerned.
“We can take care of your problem,” he says. “Our goal is to get you back to your life in the least disruptive, and fastest, way possible.”