Mind Your Body TV Episode 10 with Bruce McLucas, M.D.
A uterine fibroid tumor is a benign growth on the muscular wall of the uterus and is the most common tumor in the female genital tract. To learn more about how to shrink uterine fibroids, I met Bruce McLucas, M.D., founder of the Los Angeles Fibroid Treatment Center and a professor at UCLA. Dr. McLucas is one of the only obstetricians/gynecologists (OB/GYNS) in America accredited to perform uterine artery embolization (UAE). He and his team introduced the minimally invastive technique more than 10 years ago.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), fibroids, known technically as leiomyomata, can vary in size and number. Most American women will develop fibroids at some point in their lives. One study found that by age 50, 70 percent of whites and 80 percent of African Americans had fibroids. In many cases, fibroids may not cause symptoms and those women may be unaware they have them, like me. I carry two along for the ride, but they’ve been silent hitchhikers: I don’t need to shrink uterine fibroids, but many women are in a much different place.
Why you should shrink uterine fibroids
For others, fibroids may result in:
- heavy or painful periods or bleeding between periods
- feeling “full” in the lower abdomen
- urinating often
- pain during sex
- lower back pain
- reproductive problems, such as infertility, multiple miscarriages or early labor
When fibroids cause pain or other problems, doctors have traditionally recommended hysterectomies to remove the uterus—my mom underwent the procedure, as did many of her friends. More than 200,000 hysterectomies are performed each year for uterine fibroids and annual direct health care costs for uterine fibroids exceed $2.1 billion. Myomectomy is the surgical removal of fibroids from the only the wall of the uterus.
Fact: Baby boomer women still have hysterectomies at nearly the same rate that women did 25 years ago, according to a report issued last March. Given that other less radical options are available, such as embolization, I find that shocking, don’t you?
What is embolization?
The HERS Foundation defines embolization as “a mass of microspheres (tris-acryl gelatin) or polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) material (an embolus)…injected into the uterine arteries in order to block the flow of blood through those vessels. The microsphere gelatin or PVA remains permanently in the uterine arteries. Embolization attempts to shrink fibroids by cutting off their blood supply.”
Before the procedure to “starve” fibroids, Dr. McLucas’ patients undergo:
- thorough evaluation, including medical history
- ultrasound or MRI of uterus
- endoscopic procedures to evaluate the pelvis
Why do it?
In addition to an overall success rate of 94 percent, Dr. McLucas cites the following advantages to the procedure:
- It’s safe, simple, cost-effective, with no lengthy hospital stays.
- Symptom relief is immediate.
- There’s no cutting or general anesthesia and less downtime.
- There’s no recurrence, plus your fertility remains…as does your uterus!
As always, to present a balanced picture, it’s important that I share this extensive compilation of research and results from the HERS Foundation. Enjoy the informative video with Dr. McLucas, who addresses the relevance of fibroids to us baby boomer women: Menopause doesn’t shrink uterine fibroids.