Little-used treatment effective against fibroid tumors
March 22, 1999
NEW YORK (CNN) -- For many women, fibroid tumors in the uterus are not a harmful condition. But for others, like Monica Cassans, fibroids can be painful -- and pose difficult choices.
Fibroids are benign muscular tumors that develop in the uterus mostly during a woman's reproductive years. They can be as small as a pea, or larger than a grapefruit. They can cause heavy bleeding during menstruation and in some cases, infertility.
For severe cases, there are two main surgical options: myomectomy, the removal of the fibroid itself; or hysterectomy -- the complete removal of the uterus, which leaves women infertile.
Cassans was not ready to consider the last option.
"I don't have children yet, and I felt I was too young for that procedure," she said.
So Cassans found another option, called fibroid embolization. The non-surgical procedure cuts off the blood supply that feeds the tumors while the patient lies awake on the table. Surprisingly, many gynecologists either don't recommend the procedure or don't know much about it.
"We can actually go into the artery that feeds the uterus and place particles in that artery to block that artery," said Dr. Kenneth Crystal, the radiologist who performed the procedure on Cassans at St. Francis Hospital in New York. "This procedure is designed to deny the fibroids the blood supply they need for growth and nourishment."
Crystal said the risks are comparable to any angiographic (blood vessel) procedure, "which is really quite trivial. The actual procedural risks are probably less than one in 500," he said.
Fibroid embolization is not widely practiced in the United States. Only a handful of doctors perform the procedure -- and itÕs covered by most insurance.
"I think once it becomes a more mainstreamed type of procedure, it will be more embraced by the gynecological community," Crystal said.
Those suffering from fibroids and considering hysterectomy may want to talk to a gynecologist, or speak to an interventional radiologist.
Ask the Mayo Physician - Uterine polyps
UCLA Medical Group on fibroid embolization
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