HOUSTON – Painful uterine fibroids cause symptoms including heavy bleeding, painful cramps and serious complications during childbirth.
Fibroids are the most common reason American women get hysterectomies, some 300,000 a year.
A new treatment for fibroids reduces symptoms caused and gives women the option to have a baby.
Most women will get uterine fibroids at some point during their lives. Fibroids can run in families. African-American women are more susceptible than others.
But there is a new minimally invasive technique to get rid of them for good.
Chanel Harvey can now whip up salmon stuffed with crab meat without any pain now that her fibroids have been dramatically reduced.
"I think it's amazing," she said. "I never expected everything to just be normal, 'cause I've never had a normal period."
Just like her mother, Harvey experienced severe cramps and heavy bleeding because of uterine fibroids. Fibroids are benign uterine tumors.
She had a procedure to remove them, but they grew back.
Having a hysterectomy was an option, but Harvey wanted to leave open the possibility of having children.
Gynecologist Dr. Jessica Shepherd offered Harvey a minimally invasive procedure called laparoscopic radiofrequency ablation. She described how it works.
"Radiofrequency energy is not radioactive. It's rather an energy that's delivered to the actual fibroid, and allows it, through heat, to decrease in size," Shepherd said.
Heat is pushed through the device destroys the fibroids.
For patients, Shepherd said, "I think this is a major breakthrough for fibroid treatment and a surgical approach that allows women to resume their daily activity and quality of life."
The procedure has changed Harvey's life. Now, she has no pain, no heavy periods and did not have to have a hysterectomy.
Instead, Harvey said it gave her a choice.
"Just to know that those options are still available for me, that I can still have a family when I'm ready," Harvey said.
Patients with fibroids should ask their doctors if this is a treatment option for them. The procedure shrinks fibroids by 40%. It reduces pain. It also reduces bleeding during periods.