Free from Pain: Read Heather's Story
Most women living with uterine fibroids either don’t even know they have them, or they experience no symptoms, so having them has no impact their lives. For others, the symptoms can be so disruptive that there is a ripple effect through their lives.
For Heather Coppola, of Robbinsville, that is exactly what happened. “Everything revolved around my cycle,” she says. “I was at the point where the pain was so bad I had to miss work or other events in my life, and it had just become too much to live with.”
A Widespread Condition
Heather’s situation is not uncommon. According to the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, up to 80 percent of women have had uterine fibroids by the age of 50. Of those, about one in four experience symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding, pain and pressure in the lower abdomen and fatigue related to anemia.
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that grow in the walls of the uterus. They can vary in size from that of a sesame seed to the size of a cantaloupe, or even larger. Though researchers are still discovering how and why they develop, what we do know is a woman’s hormone levels—particularly estrogen levels—directly impact the growth of a fibroid.
The majority of women who experience symptoms from uterine fibroids are between the ages of 40 and 50.
“Most women who experience symptoms like severe pelvic pain and very heavy bleeding are beyond child-bearing age,” explains Dr. Mayson. “They will start with over-the-counter medications and once they’ve exhausted these options with no improvement, we will begin to discuss other options.”
Today’s Treatment Options
Medications like birth control and hormones can be used to treat the symptoms of uterine fibroids. While they may help with pain and bleeding, they do not treat the fibroids.
Some common surgical options for uterine fibroids include:
Treatment choices are quite individualized as symptoms, age of the woman and size of the fibroids are all considerations for treatment.
- Myomectomy – removal of the individual fibroids
- Hysterectomy – removal of the uterus
- Ablation – removal of the lining of the uterus
- Myolysis – application of electrical current or freezing agent to destroy the fibroid
- Uterine Fibroid Embolization or Uterine Artery Embolization – blocking the blood supply to the fibroid causing them to shrink
For Heather, a visual merchandiser who frequently travels to New York for work, making the choice to have a hysterectomy was not an easy one. “I’d never had surgery before. It just seemed so drastic,” she says.
Once Dr. Mayson explained to Heather the options for treatment, Heather concluded the hysterectomy made the most sense.
“I was past child-bearing age, and Dr. Mayson was able to leave my ovaries intact which meant I didn’t have to worry about premature menopause or a dramatic change in my hormone levels. Most importantly, I knew there was no chance of the symptoms returning,” explains Heather.
“Each woman is very different. Her symptoms. Her priorities. I work with each of my patients to determine what is the best treatment for her,” says Dr. Mayson.
For Heather, Dr. Mayson recommended a laparoscopic hysterectomy. “While not every patient is a candidate for the laparoscopic procedure, it is my goal to do a majority of these surgeries laparoscopically,” he explains.
This is because the laparoscopic procedure offers the most benefits to the patient, including a shorter recovery time, less pain and bleeding and a few small incisions. In fact, Dr. Mayson has even performed this procedure through a single port, which means only one incision.
“I was back to work in three weeks which was very important to me. The incisions were so small that I could hardly see them six months after surgery,” Heather says.
“The surgery basically changed my entire life. Afterward I couldn’t help but wish I’d done it sooner,” says Heather.
Robotic GYN Surgery at RWJ Hamilton
In the surgical world, advancing technology has made a tremendous impact in treatment options for all types of surgery. The daVinci robot is no exception.
This recent addition to RWJ Hamilton’s surgical department has added a new dimension of precision to gynecological surgeries, like hysterectomy, oophorectomy (ovary removal) and myomectomy (fibroid removal). This helps reduce the need for invasive surgery as well as decrease risk for complication during and following surgery.
“The robotic surgery has all the benefits of laparoscopic surgery, plus it provides a 3-dimensional vision of the area allowing for optimal precision,” says Dr. Mayson.
“The addition of this technology to our surgical suite is a great advantage to our surgeons and our patients.”