Fibroids are benign tumors that grow on or in the muscular walls of the uterus. They are not cancerous and do not “turn” into cancer. When people talk about “cancerous” fibroids, those growths are actually tumors known as uterine leiomyosarcoma, which can appear to be fibroids to a health care professional who is not a fibroid specialist. Learn more about these growths and screening for cancer in general at VIVA EVE.
Fibroids don’t always cause symptoms, but they may present any one or more of these symptoms:
- Bleeding between periods
- Unpredictable menstrual cycles
- Painful menstrual cramps
- Heavy bleeding
- Distended and bloated abdomen
- Lack of energy or fatigue from anemia/low blood count
- Weak bladder control or frequent urination from bladder
- Lower back pain or pain in the back of the legs
- Pain during sex
- Loss of libido
- Trouble conceiving
Because fibroid symptoms negatively affect women’s health-related quality of life and work productivity, many women choose to seek treatment.
Women with a family history of fibroids are at increased risk of developing them and are three times more likely to develop fibroids. Researchers believe that there may be a genetic component that relate to a woman’s susceptibility to develop fibroids.
Some women develop fibroids without any family history, so women suspecting fibroids or experiencing symptoms should consult with a fibroid expert.
All women of childbearing age are at risk for developing fibroids. However, there are a number of factors that make a woman more likely to develop fibroids, including:
Race – Fibroids affect African-American women disproportionately. Not only are they three times likelier to develop fibroids than women of other racial groups, they also experience an earlier age of onset of menstruation and are significantly more likely to experience severe or very severe symptoms.
Earlier age of onset of menstruation – Women who started their period at a young age are more likely to have fibroids.
Obesity – Women who are overweight are at greater risk of developing fibroids. Heavy women are two to three times more likely than women of average weight to develop fibroids.
Diet – Fibroids are believed to be a hormone-related disease. Diets higher in saturated fat have been linked to higher estrogen levels, which could lead to fibroids forming in and around the uterus.
Diet high in meat is naturally higher in saturated fat and is frequently low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Fiber improves digestion and helps the body in regulating hormone levels by carrying excess estrogen out of the body.
Genetics/Family History - Women who have a family history of fibroids are three times more likely to develop fibroids.
Alcohol/Caffeine A women’s health study showed that women who drink alcohol are at a higher risk of uterine fibroids than those who don’t. Moreover, women who drink three or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day were also at an increased risk.
Women who’ve never had children - The risk of fibroids is higher in women who've never given birth compared to women who have. Women who have three or more deliveries have an 80 percent risk reduction of developing fibroids.
Age - Most of the time, fibroids grow in women in their 30s and 40s. They are more common among premenopausal women, who are three to five times more likely to have them than postmenopausal women.
Fibroids may affect a woman’s ability to conceive for a number of reasons. Fibroids can create a physical barrier to pregnancy if they’re positioned in the uterus where the baby needs to be. Large fibroids may prevent a fetus from growing fully because of decreased room in the uterus. Fibroids blocking the cervix or fallopian tubes obstruct the journey or sperm of fertilized egg, preventing pregnancy from occurring.
Fibroids can also create complications during pregnancy such as miscarriages and premature labor. However, a fibroid specialist can help you identify and treat these issues.
Historically, a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) was the first recommendation for women looking to treat their fibroid symptoms. However, as science has advanced, so have the treatment options available for women.
If a patient wishes to conserve her fertility, fibroid treatment alternatives include:
- Hormone Therapy
- MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound
- Endometrial Ablation
- Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE)
A fibroid specialist can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of treatment options, taking into consideration the patient’s unique medical circumstances, health concerns, and risks relative to her condition.
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure that is an effective therapy in the treatment of symptomatic fibroids and adenomyosis. During this procedure, an interventional radiologist releases tiny particles — the size of grains of sand — into the uterine arteries to stop the flow of blood to the fibroid, leaving the rest of the uterus untouched.
By blocking blood flow to the affected areas of the uterus, the treated areas will gradually shrink in size, providing dramatic symptom relief to women suffering from pelvic pain and heavy bleeding. The majority of women are good candidates for UFE, but some may be better treated with surgery based on the location of their fibroids.
UFE has been performed successfully for over two decades, and approximately 14,000 successful UFE procedures are performed annually in the United States.
There are several factors that will determine which is the best course of treatment for you, including your age, your risk factors, your medical history and how bad your symptoms are.
Whether or not you are a candidate for UFE depends on the exact size, number, and location of the fibroids as well as your symptoms, medical history, and other circumstances.
It’s important to be screened by a fibroid expert. Even many top fibroid doctors are unaware of all the fibroid treatment options and the most current research comparing alternatives.
Most women report significant improvement in their symptoms around their third menstrual cycle following the procedure. Many women experience relief over time, as their fibroids start to soften and liquefy, eventually shrinking. The long-term success rate of the procedure is about 95%, with those few patients needing a second round of UFE to more thoroughly block blood supply to certain fibroids.
No, just moderate sedation is required for UFE. Patients often describe the sedation as “the best sleep of their life.” It allows the patient to be comfortable while ensuring a fast, safe recovery as opposed to general anesthesia, which comes with more risks.
Patients are completely comfortable during the procedure and are given a mild sedative. Following the procedure, patients are instructed to take anti-inflammatory pills to combat inflammation before it develops.
Our medical team is attentive to the needs of our patients and takes extra measures to make sure patients are kept comfortable. Our doctors are in touch for the first three days following the procedure, and patients experiencing difficulty managing their pain (usually passes in 2-3 days) are evaluated according to their unique circumstances and given the appropriate medical support. The average recovery period is 5 days after the procedure.
No overnight stay is needed.The procedure typically takes 1-1.5 hours to perform, followed by a 1-2 hour recovery supervised by our experienced doctors and nurses. Most women are fully recovered 5 days after the procedure.
While gynecologists can diagnose fibroids by doing a pelvic exam and ordering image testing, the VIVA EVE UFE procedure itself is performed by an interventional radiologist. This unique grouping of doctors from different specialties to treat fibroids is what makes us The Fibroid Experts.
No. Because fibroids aren't actually removed with UFE, they can't recur after UFE — they are simply shrunken and inactive.
After the procedure, you’ll be cared for by our experienced doctors and nurses, who will monitor you closely as you recover. Before being discharged, you will be given detailed instructions on how to care for your small incision site, which medications to take, and what you can and cannot do right after and in the days following the procedure. You’ll also set up a follow-up appointment for two weeks from that date.
Most women are able to return to light activity within a few days after the UFE treatment and are usually back to work and to normal activity within a week. However, we know that patients recover differently. That’s why our doctors will personally call you for the first 3 days following the procedure to address any questions or concerns.
During your post-op follow-up visit, you’ll come into the office and touch base with one of our doctors to review your recovery and changes in your condition. Approximately 6-8 weeks later, you’ll be asked to get an MRI and return to our office to review the results and determine whether you have any remaining symptoms.
Yes. UFE blocks the blood flow only to the fibroid tumors while leaving the rest of the uterus completely untouched. It was previously believed that UFE somehow led to reduced fertility for women because of the reduced blood flow to her reproductive organs. That was true decades ago, with less-sophisticated equipment, less-sensitive imaging, and less-experienced interventional radiologists.
An extensive study published in the journal Radiology confirmed that women were able to conceive after undergoing UFE, including women who could not conceive previously. Research suggests that 3% of infertility is caused by fibroids.
Multiple studies showed that up to 90% percent of women reported having much lighter periods and much less cramping after undergoing UFE. Heavy painful periods is one of the most frequent complaints we hear from patients suffering from fibroids, and UFE delivers a dramatic improvement. You can expect your menstrual cycle to resume following the procedure.
- Personalized Care: Our attentive staff makes sure that you’re comfortable before, during, and after your procedure. Your well-being is our priority, and we check on you both on- and off-site. Once you’re home, you’ll receive phone calls from the specialist and our team in the days following your procedure.
- We Care About Your Loved Ones: We provide your loved ones with snacks and magazines while they wait, as well as updates on your progress.
- Goody Bag: We send you home with a VIVA EVE tote bag full of products to help you recuperate, including over-the-counter medication, lotions, and other items to make you more comfortable such as lip balm, pill organizers, lotion, or hand sanitizer.
- Knowledgeable Staff: We offer thorough instructions and explanations throughout so that you know how to take your medication and which to take. If you’re in need of help, you can call our office and speak with a doctor.
As The Fibroid Experts, we pride ourselves on our high standard of patient care - just ask the hundreds of women who’ve stood in your position before and chosen VIVA EVE.