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As a fitness fanatic, Nancy H. knows her body well. So, when she started seeing a tiny bulge around her belly two years ago, she grew concerned. Four years earlier, her OB/GYN diagnosed her with fibroids, non-cancerous growths in the uterus. But at that time, her fibroids weren’t causing any problems. “My OB/GYN felt they’d go away when I got to menopause,” says Nancy, 54.

By early 2021, Nancy’s “stomach pooch” grew a bit larger. She also developed another troubling problem: she needed to make frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. “I literally didn’t feel like I had enough time to get to the bathroom or even relieve myself,” she says. “It was making me feel older than I was.”

Nancy wanted answers. To get them, she scheduled an appointment with Amish Patel, MD, a fellowship-trained interventional radiologist with the Atlantic Fibroid Center at Overlook Medical Center. He performed imaging that showed the root cause of Nancy’s symptoms. She had four fibroids, the largest one measuring the size of a large grapefruit.

Nancy had three options. She could wait until she reached menopause, when fibroids typically shrink. “But nobody has a magic number on what day or year that will happen,” she says. She could get a hysterectomy, a surgical procedure with greater risk and longer recovery times. Or she could try uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a newer, less-invasive treatment.

UFE shrinks fibroids while preserving normal uterine tissue. Dr. Patel performs it using a catheter inserted through the wrist. The procedure takes less than an hour, and most people make a full recovery within five to 10 days. “Dr. Patel felt that I’d have very good results with UFE,” she says. “It seemed like the right choice to make.”

If something’s affecting your life, you should be your own advocate, do research, ask questions and learn your options.

Nancy H., UFE Patient

Nancy had her UFE on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. She checked into Overlook Medical Center before 8 a.m. and was discharged by 3:30 p.m. that same day. “The incision was microscopic,” she says. “I had the teeniest little dot on my wrist.” Nancy used the weekend to recover. By Tuesday, she was back at the gym.

Three months later, Nancy had seen vast improvement in her quality of life. “I’m not getting up at night at the frequency I was, which is huge,” she says. “I don’t have that sense of urgency, and my stomach pooch has come down.”

When first she told her friends at the gym about her journey, she quickly gathered a crowd around her. “A lot of women overheard me, told me they had fibroids and that they were excited that this type of procedure could help them,” Nancy says. Her advice to them: “Painful, heavy periods aren’t the only signs of fibroids. If something’s affecting your life, you should be your own advocate, do research, ask questions and learn your options.”

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