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In the News

Angela Cheek: The Non-Surgical Fibroid Fix Women Need to Know

Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumors in the uterus that do not spread to other parts of the body. That’s the good news. The bad news is fibroids can cause a lot of misery. 

Angela Cheek, 47, is the nurse manager for heart and vascular services at Catawba Valley Medical Center. In her late 30’s, fibroids were making her extremely uncomfortable, unusually fatigued and they were painful certain times of the month. Heavy bleeding during menstruation caused her to become anemic and was interfering with her lifestyle. She also was bothered by an increase in her abdominal girth. This went on for about 2 years with no relief.

In addition to the symptoms Angela experienced, the National Institutes of Health includes painful sex and a contribution to reproductive problems such as infertility, multiple miscarriages or early labor among fibroid issues.

“After an ultrasound confirmed the diagnosis of uterine fibroids, I had a discussion with Dr. Bools, an interventional radiologist from Catawba Radiology,” says Angela. “We discussed Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) as an alternative to hysterectomy. I was ecstatic to learn there were options other than a hysterectomy for me at my age.”

According to the American College of Gynecology, uterine fibroids are the most common reason for a hysterectomy. In recent years, an increasing number of studies have shown long-term adverse effects of hysterectomy including pelvic organ prolapses, urinary incontinence, bowel dysfunction, sexual function and pelvic organ fistula formation. Depending on the hysterectomy technique used, abdominal/vaginal, laparoscopic or robotic, the required time for recovery can be six to eight weeks. 

Dr. Bools says, “UFE is a much less invasive, highly effective, non-surgical treatment for fibroids where we insert a thin catheter into an artery under moderate sedation in the hospital’s radiology suite. The catheter is then guided to the fibroid’s blood supply where small particles, about the size of grains of sand, are released to block the blood vessels feeding the fibroid, depriving it of nutrients. As a result, the fibroid shrinks and dies. After treatment, women should be back to their normal activities in about a week.”

Out on Friday – Back to Work Monday

UFE quickly alleviated Angela’s pain. “It was incredible,” she says. “I had UFE on a Friday and was back to work on Monday. I feel like I got my life back. I avoided a surgery with potential complications and extended time out of work. There was only a tiny incision and no scarring. My heavy periods stopped and – within 6 months – my abdominal girth returned to normal.”  

If your fibroid symptoms become bothersome, discuss UFE as an option with your primary care provider. Patients may also learn more about the procedure by talking to a member of Catawba Radiology’s interventional radiology team. Dr. John Bools, Dr. Brian Rhodes, and Dr. Ray Williams perform UFE at Catawba Valley Medical Center. Learn more by calling 828.322.2644.


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