Uterine Fibroids, an often painful and stress-inducing illness, is the most common cause of hysterectomies in women across the United States. While millions of women are undergoing irreversible surgery to remove the invasive tumors, radiologists are working to promote a lesser-known alternative treatment– uterine fibroid embolization (UFE)– that is reportedly healing and preserving their reproductive system in the process.
Black women statistically face more aggressive symptoms of uterine fibroids, showing themselves two to three times more likely to undergo a hysterectomy than white women nationwide. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), while uterine fibroids affect all women, statistics outlining decades of medical trends reveal Black women present significant risks in developing uterine fibroid tumors, as they represent higher rates of fibroid diagnoses than their white and Latinx counterparts.
“Uterine fibroids are the most common benign neoplasm of the uterus and a major source of morbidity for women of reproductive age, affecting up to 68.6% of women. Premenopausal age, Black race, nulliparity, and time period since last birth are the main identified risk factors,” the National Library of Medicine reported.
Radiologists eager to restore the hope of women suffering from fibroids are pushing hard to spread knowledge of the alternative method that many women may be looking for. Dr. John Lipman, from Atlanta Fibroid Center, who specializes in nonsurgical fibroid treatment, has spent years practicing the alternative treatment for fibroid removal, while advocating for physicians to better educate women of the less invasive treatment that arguably provides greater health outcomes.
“I tell women’s groups all the time, no matter what your gynecologist tells you, hysterectomy is not necessary to treat fibroids. It is an option, but it should be the option of absolute last resort, not the first and only option which is what the typical presentation is. A woman who suffers from fibroids, they go to their gynecologist, and the gynecologist says, ‘Are you interested in having children or not, or more children or not,’” Lipman explained. “If you say ‘no,’ they say to get a hysterectomy, if you say ‘yes,’ you get a myomectomy. [Basically], surgery or surgery, and no other option is presented, and that’s just wrong:
Lipman described UFE as “one of the biggest medical breakthroughs for women,” that remains primarily unmentioned by physicians.
“[Women] have to find it on the internet. You shouldn’t have to go to the internet to learn about your medical condition,” Lipman continued.
UFE is a non-surgical, minimally invasive treatment to remove uterine fibroids, ultimately preserving a woman’s uterus in the process. The outpatient treatment reduces recovery time, allowing patients to return home the same day, and lowers complication rates with reductions in blood loss and pain.
Reportedly, UFE is quite effective for multiple fibroids, and the recurrence of the treated fibroids is often very rare. However, Lipman witnesses large numbers of women who have walked into his office having no knowledge of the alternative procedure before finding him after long bouts of their research outside of a doctor’s office.
More often than not, millions of women seeking salvage from the life-altering illness are quickly pointed to surgery as their only means of options to rectify the issue. Particularly for women of childbearing age, the suggestion of hysterectomy is enough to crush a woman’s spirit, leaving them hopeless in finding a plausible means to healing their reproductive system, and having a chance of birthing children they may have dreamed of.
Sheila (whose last name is withheld for request of privacy), a patient of Dr. John Lipman, suffered from Uterine Fibroids before seeking an alternative procedure to remedy her illness.
Pleased with her results, she found herself able to conceive post-surgery.
“What I would say to another woman who has fibroids and wants to get pregnant is to go get the embolization. I don’t feel the pain that I felt before, I feel great, I have a lot more energy,” Sheila told the Informer. “I would tell the doctor that told me that the embolization doesn’t work, that I am living proof. I am actually pregnant, I am fine, and I will be fine. It’s literally life-changing.”
Lipman stressed the importance of women serving as the number one advocate of their health, encouraging the need to gather second and third opinions until finding a physician who is paying close care and attention, and not dismissing alarming health concerns.
“This is such a multilayered problem,” Lipman emphasized. “The gynecologists have done an excellent job of keeping uterine fibroid embolization under wraps. They’ve done a very good job as the gatekeepers of women’s health, they just don’t inform people about UFE. They’re surgeons, and surgeons like to operate.”