No one knows what causes fibroid tumors, or why African American women are more at risk. Many will be told they need surgery or even a hysterectomy, even though there is a less invasive, and less painful alternative.
9 Health Reporter Jennifer Ryan shows you this new approach, which literally 'starves' the tumor to death.
"These black balls are the fibroids, picture a tumor, larger than the organ it's invading, I'd say they were size of a grapefruit", says Dr. Interventional Radiologist Dr. Janice Newsome.
“The normal size of the uterus is the size of a fist," she adds.
4 years ago, Sheila Whiting refused to have a hysterectomy; instead she opted to have just the tumors surgically removed, which meant 6 weeks of recovery!
"But they grew back, and they grew large! It just drained me of my energy", says Whiting. "I was tired all of the time", she says.
Fibroids are benign, but cause pain, excessive bleeding and just like pregnancy can increase the uterus to the size of a watermelon.
After a little searching, Sheila learned she was a candidate for a different procedure that uses a catheter, instead of a scalpel.
Hundreds of tiny beads or spheres are carried thru the catheter to the artery supplying blood to the tumor. The spheres are released, blocking the blood supply, the lifeline, which causes the tumor to starving and shrink.
"They don't feel the procedure at all", says Interventional Radiologist, Dr. Keith Sterling.
Dr. Sterling shows how the tumor's tiny network of vessels vanishes from the screen when the beads are in place.
"And they stay there, they don't move around or travel through the body. They stay right where we put this", says Dr. Sterling
The procedure takes about an hour, the incision is tiny, about the size of the end of a catheter, and you don't need stitches, just a bandaid!
That was great news for Whiting.
"I got back, my recuperation time was cut in half, I had no real pain", she says.
Sheila spent one night in the hospital and returned to work the next week. And while she may develop new fibroids in the future, the old ones are gone for good.
The procedure is called "Uterine Fibroid Embolization".
Some women may not be candidates, depending on the size, number and location of their tumors.
It may also prevent some women from becoming pregnant.
Click on video to see Jennifer Ryan's report.
Written By Jennifer Ryan