Approximately 70% to 80% of women, worldwide, get fibroids in their lifetime and especially at childbearing age. However, older women between 40 – 50 years are affected by uterine fibroids most.
Fibroids are basically growths or non-cancerous (benign) tumours which grow in the walls of the uterus, hence the term, uterine fibroids. They are also referred to as myoma or leiomyoma. They can either grow as a single tumour or there can be several of them. Even though the exact cause of these tumours is not known, factors like hormonal problems, genetic changes and a family history with fibroids, can increase a woman’s risk of getting fibroids. Most women do not get any symptoms; however, some can get symptoms such as heavy bleeding, bleeding in between periods or after menopause, pain during sex and infertility, among other symptoms.
Fibroids Treatments Overseas
Over the past year, we at International Medical Treatment Ltd (IMT) have received a lot of enquiries about fibroid treatments from women from around Africa and the Middle East. Though fibroids are a common problem for many women worldwide, in most cases they are not life threatening and there is treatment available.
But why should you consider getting treatment for fibroids overseas? Our partner hospitals in India, Thailand, The UAE and Turkey offer high quality services in both the diagnosis and the treatment of fibroids, using the most advanced technology such as the Da Vinci Robotics System which makes fibroid removal more precise, leaves less scars and allows for faster recovery, hence less of a hospital stay.
Most women will notice that something might be wrong when they start getting abnormal vaginal bleeding. In most cases where no symptoms are being experienced, women will find out they have fibroids during a routine check-up. The doctor or specialist will notice irregularities in the uterus and do tests to find out what is causing the irregularities. Tests that can be done to determine whether a woman has fibroids include:
- Lab tests: A doctor can do a lab test to sure that the bleeding is being caused by fibroids and not thyroid problems or other bleeding disorders. A complete blood count test can also be done to check whether the woman has anaemia due to blood loss caused by the fibroids.
- Imaging tests are the most common ways to determine whether a woman has fibroids. They include:
a. Ultrasound: It is an imaging test that involves using sound waves to produce images of the uterus which can help determine whether the uterine irregularity is due to the fibroids.
Other, more advanced imaging tests that are available at our partner hospitals include:
b. Magnetic resonance imaging: This is a more advanced imaging system that involves getting more detailed images of the fibroids as well as helping to determine their size and location and the treatment required.
c. Hysterosalpingography: In this diagnosis process, a dye is inserted into the uterus to highlight both the uterus and the fallopian tubes making it much easier to view any irregularities in the uterus during an x-ray.
d. Hysteroscopy: A hysteroscope (a thin lighted tube) is inserted into the uterus through the vagina, after which saline (salt solution) is injected into the uterus allowing the uterine walls to expand and allowing the doctor to examine the uterine walls and the fallopian tubes’ openings.
e. Hysterosonography: This imaging test involves expanding the uterus using a catheter which injects a saline solution or salt water into the uterus to get images of the lining of the uterus with the help of an ultrasound probe.
Myomectomy (surgical removal of fibroids) is the treatment most people know of. However, every fibroid case is treated differently because not all fibroids need to be removed. A doctor will usually therefore, discuss options for relieving symptoms as fibroids are non-cancerous and they tend to shrink after menopause. If the fibroids are not causing unbearable symptoms, your doctor might recommend medications for your hormones so as to regulate menstruation, especially for women with heavy bleeding. Progestin-releasing intrauterine devices is one of the medications which relieve heavy bleeding.
In situations where the fibroids need to be removed, our partner hospitals offer minimally invasive or non-invasive procedures which allow for faster healing, shorter hospital stays and less or no scarring.
Minimally invasive procedures include:
- Myolysis: This is a laparoscopic procedure that involves using radiofrequency energy to destroy the fibroids and shrink blood vessels that aid the growth of fibroids.
- Cryomyolysis: This procedure is a conservative treatment for fibroids which involves freezing the fibroids.
- Uterine artery embolization: It involves injecting embolic agents into the arteries to cut blood flow to the fibroids which leads to their shrinkage and eventually causing them to die.
- Robotic myomectomy: Using laparoscopy, the fibroid is removed through tiny incisions, but the uterus is left in place which is important for women who want to have children. This procedure enables the doctor to have a 3-D view of the uterus making the treatment more precise.
- Endometrial ablation: A specialized instrument is inserted into the uterus and the uterus lining is destroyed through the use of heat or electric current which can lead to reduction of menstrual flow or end menstruation.
- Hysteroscopic myomectomy: It is basically removing the fibroids but, in this procedure, the surgical instruments are inserted through the vagina.
Minimally invasive procedures include:
7. MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery (FUS): This procedure involves the patient lying down inside an MRI scanner where high-energy sound waves from a transducer, heat and destroy the fibroid. The procedure is safe and effective.