One in every four women suffers from uterine fibroids. A new focussed MRI treatment promises to be a painless, quick, hospitalisation-free solution to the problem
Uterine fibroids are fast becoming one of the most common gynaecological problems among women today. They are essentially tumours that occur within the inner layers of the uterus.
Most are non-cancerous, and common symptoms include painful and heavy menstruation, painful sexual intercourse, backache, constipation or frequent urination.
The MRI guided focussed ultrasound (MRgFUS) is a new painless and non-invasive procedure that promises to rid women of fibroids, and Mumbai's Jaslok Hospital is pioneering the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) treatment in Asia. It claims to be an accurate way to determine the location of the fibroid.
Here's how it works: A fine beam of ultrasound waves is focussed on the fibroid, raising the temperature within it such that the blood flow to it is restricted, causing the fibroid to eventually 'burn'.
The procedure involves no hospitalisation or anaesthesia. "The MRgFUS treatment has absolutely no side-effects. It doesn't cause damage to the uterus or ovaries.
Fertility, conception and ability to bear a child aren't affected either," says Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai, consultant gynaecologist, Jaslok Hospital.
The treatment cost is almost on par with surgery. Patients whom Dr Pai has treated using MRgFUS, have managed to return to work the following day, she says.
Dr AK Warty, consulting gynaecologist with Mandar Nursing Home is, however, more cautious in his recommendation of the procedure.
"It can be a great solution for a patient who isn't battling obesity, has moderate-sized fibroids, or is a high-risk case.
The rays can't penetrate fat effectively in the case of an obese person. Also, this method can shrink the size of the fibroids but I'm not sure it can cause them to disappear.
I see it as a stop-gap measure for those who can't go in for surgery immediately," he says.
Dr Sheetal Sabharwal, obstetrician and gynaecologist with Tulip Women's Health Care Centre says the treatment works best for women reaching menopause.
"Fibroids tend to recur, and for those going through menopause, the chances of recurrence are reduced."
What causes uterine fibroids?
Increase in oestrogen and progesterone levels during reproductive years could be a reason.
Heavy intakes of contraceptive pills can also lead to fibroids in the uterus.
Some studies suggest that exposure to toxins like Xenoestrogen chemicals (environmental oestrogens and pesticides) sprayed on fruits and vegetables can increase risk too.
When will they strike?
Fibroids tend to occur during the middle and later reproductive years of a woman's life, with most doctors confirming that at least 30% of their patients between the ages of 20 to 45 years come in with uterine fibroids.
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