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ART: Improving Awareness About Fibroid, Access To Right Professional Help

Welcome to the Assisted Reproductive Technology series with Dr. Ken. Here, we discuss Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) as a means to tackle the problem of infertility.

In this edition, we will be looking at Fibroids and how it relates to women’s health and fertility! No doubt, fibroid is an issue of universal concern. The lack of proper understanding however presents a greater issue that hampers access to the right professional help.

Fibroids, also known as uterine fibroids or leiomyomas, are noncancerous growths that develop on the wall of the uterus. These growths are very common. About 70-80 percent of women are projected to develop fibroids by the age of 50.

Fibroids are usually benign and do not increase the risk of uterine cancer, but they can cause a variety of symptoms and complications that may require treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors: The exact cause of fibroids is still not known, but several factors have been traced to their development. Hormones, particularly estrogen, and progesterone, have been found to play an important role in the growth of uterine fibroids.

Other potential risk factors include a family history of fibroids, obesity, and African-American ethnicity. Estrogen levels can fluctuate during a woman’s fertile years, which explains why fibroids tend to develop and grow during this time.

Symptoms: While many women with fibroids experience no symptoms, for others, fibroids can cause significant discomfort and complications. Common symptoms of fibroids include:

• Pain or pressure in the pelvis. Fibroids can cause pain in the pelvis, lower back, or during sexual intercourse.

• Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding. Uterine fibroids can cause anemia and fatigue with heavy or long menstrual periods.

• Urination problems. Large fibroids can compress the bladder, causing frequent urination or the urge to urinate.

• Infertility or repeated miscarriages. Fibroids, depending on their location and size, can interfere with pregnancy and fertility.

• Bowel problems: Fibroids can also put pressure on the rectum, causing constipation or difficulty having a bowel movement.

Treatment Options:

The choice of treatment for fibroids depends on several factors, including the severity of the symptoms, the size and location of the fibroids, the woman’s age, and her desire to have children. Treatment options include:

Medications:

– Hormonal birth control: Oral contraceptives or intrauterine devices that contain hormones can help control menstrual bleeding and reduce pain, but do not reduce the size of fibroids.

– Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists: These drugs can shrink fibroids by lowering estrogen and progesterone levels. They are used temporarily or before surgery to make fibroids more manageable.

– Tranexamic acid: This drug helps reduce heavy menstrual bleeding caused by fibroids.

Minimally Invasive Procedures:

– Uterine artery embolization: This is a procedure that blocks and constricts the blood supply by injecting small particles into the blood vessels that supply uterine fibroids.

– MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery: This entails using ultrasound to heat and destroy fibroids to relieve symptoms.

-Myomectomy: Surgery to remove uterine fibroids while preserving the uterus.

-Laser Myomectomy: This is an advanced form of myomectomy. In this case, laser energy is used for the procedure.

It offers the benefits of increased operational speed, minimal or no risk of fluid overload, less trauma, and is also bloodless to a large extent.

In addition, there are insignificant post-operative adhesions or complications when compared to other sources of energy used in the surgery.

These benefits make it the most suitable option for women who want to preserve fertility.

This method in Nigeria was first adopted by Alps Hospitals and Diagnostics, and the facility currently trains surgeons in this specialty.

Surgical Options:

– Hysterectomy: In severe cases or for women who have completed family planning, a hysterectomy may be recommended. This entails the removal of the uterus.

– Endometrial ablation: This procedure destroys the lining of the uterus, reducing heavy menstrual bleeding caused by fibroids.

It is important to note that the choice of treatment depends on individual circumstances, and it is best to consult a Gynaecologist for proper evaluation and discussion of the most suitable options for you.

In a nutshell, fibroids are common non-cancerous growths in the uterus that can cause a range of symptoms and complications.

The treatment options for fibroids include medication, minimally invasive procedures, or surgery, depending on the severity of symptoms and the woman’s reproductive goals.

Fibroids could pose a challenge but the great news is, it is very much treatable, and you get a chance to reach your fertility goals as well.

The greater news is that you do not need to travel abroad anymore for surgery or any of the treatment procedures highlighted above.

Africa’s Premier Hospitality-based Fertility Hospital, Alps Hospitals and Diagnostic located in the city of Jos, Nigeria, offers all these services. In fact, as earlier mentioned, the hospital pioneered the laser myomectomy procedure in Nigeria, and has the record of the best expertise on this. It goes a step further to train surgeons too. Cheers to endless possibilities!

Until next time, stay fine, and always remember that conception and childbearing is a possibility for everyone that so desires.