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Did you know that as many as three out of every four women have uterine fibroid tumors (UFTs), but the majority never even know it?
At UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, our Fibroid Treatment Center offers the region's most comprehensive approach to uterine fibroid tumors (UFTs), combining the expertise of board-certified gynecologists and interventional radiologists and providing women with options for relief.
Learn how our center changed the life of Angie Costa Gifford, a UPMC patient.
(Note: This patient's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.)
Every woman occasionally experiences some minor discomfort and inconvenience during her monthly periods. But for Angie Costa Gifford of Jefferson Hills, PA, her periods were anything but minor.
“They were always very painful and heavy, but I never really complained, because I thought my experience was normal” she recalls.
After the birth of her son 16 years ago, her periods grew even more severe. They become increasingly heavier and longer —lasting one week, then two, then all month long. “It was a nightmare. I was exhausted and anemic. There were even times I had to wear diapers to function,” says Angie.
She was diagnosed with uterine fibroid tumors (UFTs) — noncancerous growths in the wall of the uterus that can be as small as a pea or as large as a cantaloupe. As many as three out of five women have UFTs, but the majority never know it.
“I tried just about everything possible over the years to treat this,” says Angie, including several unsuccessful D&Cs (dilation and curretage), and medication. “I took leuprolide for some time, which put me into false menopause to stop my periods,” she notes. “It actually worked for a while, but I couldn’t stay on it forever.”
The only way to surefire way to prevent fibroids from recurring is a hysterectomy, which involves the complete removal of the uterus. But that procedure wasn’t a viable option for Angie. “I have a blood clotting disorder that not only put me at risk for surgery, but also prevented me from taking the hormones that are required after a hysterectomy,” she explains.
Her gynecologist, Richard S. Guido, MD, founder and director of the Fibroid Treatment Center at UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital, suggested she try a uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive procedure requiring little downtime. “I had nothing to lose. I was desperate and I needed to get back on my feet fast,” she says.
Dr. Guido referred Angie to Philip Orons, DO, chief of interventional radiology at Magee. Using a thin catheter about the size of a spaghetti strand, Dr. Orons injected small particles into the blood vessels that “feed” the fibroids to stop the flow of blood to them.
“I was thrilled. I was back on my feet within three days, doing most of my normal activities,” says Angie, 55, a part-time paralegal for a Pittsburgh law firm. “Dr. Orons even gave me his personal cell number to call if I had any complications — who does that today?”
Still skeptical about her long-term results, Angie delayed her follow-up appointment with Dr. Orons until she had completed two menstrual cycles. Both were light and lasted only four or five days. “I was so excited. I had a new life and freedom like I never knew before,” she says.
Two years later at age 55, Angie still has monthly periods, but none of the heavy bleeding or clotting she experienced before her surgery.
“To this day, I can’t believe how many years of suffering and agony I endured until I had the embolization procedure,” says Angie. She’s so enthusiastic about her results that she even volunteered at Magee to speak to women considering the procedure.
“It was like a miracle. It gave me a more normal life — a better quality of life. I’m able to do what I want, and go where I want, without any problems or worries. Thank you, Dr. Guido and Dr. Orons, for really listening to me, making me feel comfortable talking about my condition — and most of all, for my new life!”
Established in 2008, the Fibroid Treatment Center offers the region’s most comprehensive approach to UFTs. The center brings together gynecologists and interventional radiologists with extensive expertise in treating fibroids. The center also offers women much-valued convenience. During one visit, patients can undergo diagnostic tests, have the tests evaluated, and then meet with physicians for a counseling session to determine the best plan of action.