DURHAM, N.C. — There is a new, non-invasive way to treat fibroid tumors – non-cancerous growths that can become painful.
Studies show they will affect one in four women sometime in their lives.
Treatment for fibroid tumors previously included surgical options, like a hysterectomy or myoectomy. Uterine artery embolization is a newer option, but there can be side effects.
The latest option is an MRI guided focused ultra-sound which zaps the tumor without surgery and very few, if any, side effects.
Candidates for this treatment include women who have completed child bearing and are later in their reproductive years.
The procedure may take up to three hours with some cramping possible during the procedure, but since there are no incisions or stitches, recovery is fast. Another benefit of MRI technology is there's no danger from radiation exposure.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the procedure in 2004. Since then, only 3,000 women have been treated so far in the country. Duke is one of the few centers in the country to offer it.
Tara Conner, of Charlotte, recently underwent the procedure to treat a benign fibroid tumor in her uterus.
“I actually thought I was going to have to have a hysterectomy,” Conner said.
At 48, Conner said she felt a growing pressure on her bladder and rectum.
Dr. Millie Behera, of Duke's obstetrics and gynecology practice, said Conner's fibroid was 6 to 7 centimeters in diameter.
Using the MRI-guided, focused ultrasound, a tranducer targets the tumor with high frequency sound waves.
MRI imaging showed the temperature inside a portion of the tumor rising.
“The fibroid which is such a firm tumor - it changes in consistency so it becomes a softer mass, so pressure on the bladder and rectum resolve almost immediately," Behera said.
Over several months, the softer mass is absorbed by the body.
Minutes after the procedure, Conner was ready to go home with her husband to Charlotte.
“Anything I can do to spread the word to women - I want to be a part of, because I think this is absolutely marvelous – a true blessing,” Conner said.