If you've been experiencing pelvic or lower back pain and unusually heavy periods, your gynecologist may have diagnosed you with fibroids -- benign uterine tumors that can disrupt your menstrual flow and cause you to have especially severe cramps. Because these tumors can be triggered by the production of estrogen and progesterone, many women begin developing them during puberty, and they can continue to grow during childbearing years. Although some fibroid tumors can shrink or even disappear on their own, if the growth of these tumors goes unchecked, they can cause infertility or even begin spreading to other parts of your reproductive system. Here are the most effective treatment options for fibroid tumors, in order from least to most invasive.
There are several types of prescription medications that can interfere with the growth of fibroid tumors or even cause them to shrink. These drugs most commonly work by temporarily stopping your body from producing estrogen or progesterone -- essentially simulating a post-menopausal state. After your fibroids have reduced in size enough for your symptoms to have diminished or stopped, you'll be able to wean yourself off from this medication. If your fibroids recur, you may need to undergo an additional cycle of treatment.
This type of surgery is designed to kill the fibroid tumors without harming any surrounding uterine tissue, and is relatively non-invasive when compared to other types of surgery. During ultrasound fibroid removal, a doctor will use an ultrasound machine to identify the location of your fibroids, then target them with high-frequency sound waves to destroy them little by little. You may want to combine this surgery with a medication regimen to ensure that once these tumors have been removed, they do not quickly grow back.
Although this is often the option of last resort, if you have no plans to have children and would like to ensure that your fibroid issues never recur, you may want to have your uterus removed through a hysterectomy. This is often recommended if other treatment options have fallen short and you still have many years before your body naturally goes through menopause and slows production of fibroid-fueling hormones.
Until recently, these operations involved a large incision in your lower stomach (similar to that used in a cesarean section) and the removal of your uterus through this incision. However, hysterectomies can now be performed by making only a few tiny incisions and using an electronic scope and cauterizing device. This dramatically reduces both post-surgical pain and recovery time. Talk to your physician about da Vinci hysterectomies.