Fibroids are noncancerous, abnormal growths that develop in or on a woman’s uterus during their reproductive years. Research indicates about 80 percent of women develop fibroids by the time they get to the age of 50.
For a long time, treatment for uterine fibroids has been associated with surgery followed by a long and painful recovery period. This has made many women suffering from the condition dread undergoing the procedures. African women compared to Caucasians are likely to be diagnosed with these tumours. It is unclear what causes them.
According to Dr Ravjit Sagoo and Dr Timona Obura, this doesn’t need to be the case. Technological developments in the medical field across the globe have broken new ground and given rise to sophisticated non-invasive treatment for fibroids.
Women suffer from different types of fibroids depending on the location in the uterus. A gynaecologist will carry out a pelvis exam to determine what type of fibroid a patient is suffering from. This check-up is used to identify the condition, size, and shape of a patient’s uterus.
Other tests may include ultrasound and MRI for conclusive results. Treatment is administered based on patient’s age, size of the growths and overall health.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a global treatment of the fibroids regardless of size, number, or location. It is a painless, image-guided procedure making it less invasive, safe and an effective treatment for fibroids.
UFE has been performed on many patients locally at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi (AKUH), making this an easily accessible treatment option for Kenyan women who have fibroids.
UFE is carried out by an interventional radiologist. A 2mm ‘cut’ is made at the top of the leg or in the wrist through which a tiny tube is inserted. This tube is manoeuvred through the uterine artery, injecting tiny particles into the arteries that supply blood to the uterus and fibroids. The particles ultimately block the blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to die and shrink without affecting the uterus. During the procedure, the specialist uses a high-definition x-ray camera to guide him.
A successful UFE procedure treats all fibroids that are present on the day of the procedure. Patients can resume their usual activities much earlier than if they had surgery (typically within 1 week).
It is safe for women who want to conceive after undergoing a UFE procedure though it is advised to wait for between six to twelve months before attempting to conceive.
Dr Ravjit Sagoo is an Interventional Radiologist and Dr Timona Obura, an Obstetrician Gynaecologist and Laparoscopic Surgeon at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi.