Non-surgical fibroid treatment is popular among Kenyan women

Dr Nigel Hacking, a UFE specialist
Dr Nigel Hacking, a UFE specialist

An advanced fibroid treatment — known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization — has gained popularity since the introduction of this procedure five years ago.

Dr Nigel Hacking, a UFE specialist based in England working together with the obstetrics and gynaecology faculty at Aga Khan University Hospital, have carried out more than 200 operations. The availability of this procedure has increased the number of treatment options for patients suffering from fibroids in East Africa.

Fibroids are a non-cancerous growth of the muscle of the uterus which typically occur in women during their reproductive years. Research indicates that one in five women has fibroids and black women are two to three times more likely to have them compared to their white counterparts.

Depending on the size, location and nature of symptoms caused by the fibroids, different treatment options are available.

UFE is recommended as a non-surgical alternative for patients who want to avoid open surgery, or have risks resulting from surgical complications, a history of keloid scars (an overgrowth of scar tissue), blood clots, or medical conditions that may complicate aneasthesia.

Dr Timona Obura, the vice chair, department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Aga Khan University Hospital and consultant hysteroscopic and laparoscopic surgeon, said: “This procedure is also an option for patients who may wish to conceive in the future and is a very effective method of reducing menstrual blood loss in those with anaemia. In addition, the choice of UFE allows for rapid resumption of normal activity and is used as a means of shrinking fibroids to reduce pressure symptoms.”

Gloria Wamalwa, who recently underwent this procedure, found out that she suffered from fibroids 10 years ago when she conceived her second child. The doctors advised her to do nothing about them as they seemed to shrink after her pregnancy.

The fibroids did not bother her again until two years ago during a routine MRI, the doctor suggested that she ought to do something about them. “I kept postponing the issue. I have never been to theatre and the thought of surgery just freaked me out. Many of the stories I’ve heard and read about were not encouraging either,” Gloria said.

“A few weeks ago I started getting very heavy periods and consulted my doctor. He mentioned that an advanced fibroids treatment that did not involve surgery is being performed at the Aga Khan University Hospital and introduced me to Dr Obura.”

She added: Dr Obura explained the procedure and gave me some websites to help me understand it better. A special MRI was done to determine whether I was a good candidate for the technique. On the day of the intervention, I was asked to be at the hospital at 8am, I was prepared for the procedure at 9am and by 11am I was through and chatting with my visitors in my room.

“The best part of it was that I was awake throughout the procedure watching everything on the screen in the Cathlab and the doctors were talking to me so it was not scary. I had no side effects after the procedure, it was less costly and I am very happy because it was non- invasive so I have no scars.”

Gloria feels that every woman has a right to know about all the treatment options and where they are available to enable patients make informed choices. She says many doctors don’t give patients treatment options that don’t benefit them for fear of losing business.