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Angela Williams

Symptom Relief Without Major Surgery

Holy Name Patient Stories - Angela Williams

Angela Williams was in her late 40's and having such heavy periods that the blood loss was causing a cascade of symptoms, including some that were affecting her heart. She started experiencing tightness in her chest and shortness of breath, in addition to the burden of constant trips to bathrooms to address the severe bleeding.

Angela had uterine fibroids, a condition she endured since she was a teenager. But in the nearly two decades since she had her children the fibroids had grown and their effects were interfering with daily life. Unfortunately, her options for treatment held more risk than the condition. Or so she thought.

Then she met Dr. Vincent Gallo, an interventional radiologist at Holy Name Medical Center, who specializes in uterine fibroid embolization. He explained the procedure to her, how and why it works and what she should expect.

"After I met Dr. Gallo, I thought, 'Why didn't I know this was an option that was available to me?' – uterine fibroid embolization. I was always told hysterectomy was my only option and when we're you're in your 30's and married with children, that's wasn't what I wanted," Angela said. "I just dealt with the problem. But then he explained that the procedure shrinks the fibroids, which causes less bleeding, less pain and less discomfort."

Uterine fibroids are non–cancerous growths in the uterus. About two–thirds of American women have them, but not everyone has symptoms. Those who do may experience heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, frequent urination, constipation, backache and leg pains, depending on the location, size and number of fibroids.

Many physicians recommend hysterectomies or myomectomies. A hysterectomy permanently eliminates the problem by removing the uterus but it is major surgery requiring a multi–day hospital admission and childbirth is no longer possible. A myomectomy also requires an incision but leaves the uterus in place and just removes the fibroids.

I wasn't a candidate for either surgery because of my cardiac history – getting anesthesia was a problem," Angela said. "This was the perfect solution for me."

During a uterine fibroid embolization, the physician goes through a blood vessel in the wrist or groin to inject sand–sized particles into the arteries that supply the fibroids with blood. The particles form a blockage in the arteries, cutting off the fibroids' essential blood supply. Though the growths don't die completely, they shrink to very small sizes that no longer cause symptoms.

The fibroids take 10 years to enlarge again, if they do it at all. This minimally–invasive procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and typically does not require overnight hospitalization.

Angela said her procedure at Holy Name was "easy, with no pain or discomfort. The staff took really good care of me and I felt great."

"Some of these fibroids grow very large and press on the bladder, rectum or nerves and really affect a woman's quality of life," Dr. Gallo said. "A couple of months after the procedure, so many patients say it has changed their lives. Unfortunately, a good number of women don't even know about this life altering option."

Angela is one of those women. Three months after the procedure she reported feeling "so much better – I've lost 6 lbs., my periods are much lighter and my abdomen isn't as distended as it was," she said. "This is definitely the best decision I've made. I just wish I would have known about it sooner."

Learn more about Uterine Fibroids Treatment at Holy Name