By Nicole D. Miller

Women who suffer from tumors like uterine fibroids and polyps normally get them detected during a routine gynecological examination. But if there aren’t any symptoms and a routine exam is not conducted, these growths can go undetected for years, even decades.

Once an exam identifies fibroids, the following medical procedure most likely to occur is an ultrasound. A specific type of ultrasound called saline infusion sonography involves the insertion of a catheter into the cervix where a small balloon is inflated to hold it in place. Sterile saline is injected into the uterus during this exam so that ultrasound pictures can be taken. This procedure lasts about half an hour, can cause cramping, and be uncomfortable for the woman. However, the images taken during the ultrasound help identify the lengths, sizes, and locations of fibroids and polyps. Other scanning methods include MRIs, X-rays, CAT Scans, and hysteroscopies.

Once fibroids are diagnosed, the medical options vary. Medications such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa) can be used to control the symptoms. Although blood flow may cease and tumors can shrink, long-term use of this medication can lead to bone loss. The recommended use of GnRHa is one to three months, but stopping treatment can be even more problematic as fibroids tend to regrow quickly. As a result, this option is typically used before surgery to remove fibroids.

Another treatment alternative to surgery is Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). During this procedure, a catheter is placed in an incision near the groin and into an artery while using x-rays to guide the catheter to the uterus arteries. Once there, the catheter delivers agents that block off the blood vessels that feed the fibroids. This procedure shrinks fibroids up to 50%. Some benefits are that there is no abdominal incision, and it has a faster recovery time. However, it’s important to note that fibroids are known to repopulate around five years after removal.

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Other treatments include Focused Ultrasound Treatment, Hysteroscopy, Laparoscopy, and Laparotomy. A particular type of surgery that requires no incision is a hysteroscopic myomectomy where the fibroids are removed through the vaginal cavity. This is an outpatient surgery with minimal recovery time but can only be performed if the sizes and locations of the fibroids qualify. Also, fibroids can still grow back after surgery.

Deciding which treatment is best for each woman can be overwhelming. That’s why weighing all options is critical. Factors such as how many fibroids and polyps are present, their lengths and sizes, their location, and if future children are wanted, determine which course of action best suits the afflicted woman.

The most well-known medical treatment for fibroids is the hysterectomy, where the entire uterus is removed. This surgery prohibits future pregnancies and menstruation periods. Although there may be temporary relief of hemorrhaging and other symptoms of fibroids with this option, there is always a risk with surgery. Such risks include bleeding, infection, and damage to internal organs. In addition to those risks, fibroids can still grow back, although instead of in the uterus, they may grow back near where it was previously located.

Historically hysterectomies were pushed as the go-to solution for fibroid removal, however, in recent times, the “natural” route has been discovered to be just as effective and less invasive. It may take time to adopt a healthier lifestyle depending on a woman‘s current diet, yet, it is both possible and rewarding.

One effective diet to combat an increase in estrogen is the vegan lifestyle. The final article in this series will provide information on the power of veganism and how it heals women’s bodies from the silent pandemic of fibroids.