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National Minority Health Month: Hysterectomy not only solution for fibroids 

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – April is National Minority Health Month, and doctors are spreading awareness about uterine fibroids, a condition that is affecting Black women more severely than other racial groups.

Research shows that up to 80% of women will develop uterine fibroids by age 50, and Black women are three times more likely to develop them. Unfortunately, some women will never know they have them. 

For most women, surgery is typically the next step. However, Dr. Joshua Dowell, a radiologist with Vascular & Interventional Physicians of Northwest Radiology in Indianapolis, says that’s not the only option for treatment. Fibroids are a problem for many women, but many don’t know the cause of their symptoms. 

Dr. Dowell says those suffering from fibroids can experience heavy bleeding during and in between menstrual cycles. The benign tumors can also push against organs, causing pain or discomfort, frequent urination, and infertility issues.

There are many treatment options such as medication and surgical procedures, including a myomectomy or hysterectomy. Dr. Dowell says a hysterectomy is the main treatment option. 

However, some women might not need surgery. Dr. Dowell is now spreading awareness about uterine fibroid embolization, better known as UFE. Dr. Dowell says it’s a safe and effective non-surgical option for treating fibroids.

“We do the procedure by sneaking a catheter around the arteries and just through a needle stick and finding the vessels that feed the fibroids. From there, we put small beads in to slow the blood supply down to the fibroids and start with another blood supply,” Dr. Dowell said.

Dr. Dowell says by doing that, the fibroids shrink, preserving the uterus and fertility. Dr. Dowell also says that fibroids can shrink over time, decreasing in size by 40% for 90-95% of women.

“By doing this, the vast majority of women don’t need to have a hysterectomy or go on to have surgery,” Dr. Dowell said.

UFE is an outpatient procedure, meaning women can go home the same day. The procedure also gives women a shorter recovery time. Dr. Dowell hopes that more women will consider UFE as a treatment option. VIP is the first clinic in the state to offer interventional radiology services to patients outside of a hospital. 

Black women are experiencing the severe effects of uterine fibroids, but UFE could be a viable non-surgical option for those who do not want to undergo a hysterectomy. By spreading the word about UFE, doctors hope to provide more treatment options for women with uterine fibroids.