Meet the patients: Tendai Musiyazviriyo
When friends and family started asking Tendai Musiyazviriyo if she was pregnant, she knew it was time to talk to a doctor about the lump she could feel in her stomach.
The 31-year-old recruitment consultant, who is originally from Zimbabwe but now lives in Totton, Southampton, had also been feeling tired, and could no longer sleep on her front.
Tests revealed that the lump was in fact one of several fibroid tumours - non-cancerous growths in the walls of her uterus. The largest fibroid was the size of a full term pregnancy.
Fibroids affect between 20 and 40% of women over 35, but three in every four Afro-Caribbean women will develop fibroids.
Less than fifteen years ago the only option for treating fibroids was major surgery – either a hysterectomy or in some cases a myomectomy, where just the fibroid is removed.
However, SUHT offers an alternative to these procedures, called uterine fibroid embolisation (UFE). The team at Southampton General Hospital is one of the busiest UFE units in the country. This, along with other pioneering research performed at Southampton General Hospital, has led to NICE fully supporting UFE as a treatment option for women with symptomatic fibroids.
Tendai, who does not have any children, said: “I knew other women who had fibroids and had to have big operations. I was very sceptical about surgery as I’m still young and I want children. In fact I want to challenge my mum for numbers of children, and she had seven!
“People from my church, Guta Ra Jehova (G.R.J.), prayed for me that there was another way. When my mum and dad visited in the summer they prayed too.
“I thanked God when I found out that they could treat the fibroids without a major operation. When I heard of the embolisation procedure, I said yes please, straight away.”
UFE only requires a tiny cut in the groin area, so that a catheter can be inserted and guided to the uterine arteries. Tiny particles the size of sand are injected in, to cut off the blood flow to the fibroids.Over time they shrink, or in a few cases disappear all together. Patients are sedated, but do not need a general anaesthetic.
This procedure is carried out by an interventional radiologist, who is specially trained to treat patients with miniature tools, while watching the progress on x-rays or other imaging equipment. Dr Nigel Hacking, who was a pioneer of UFE and one of the first to start using it in the UK, carries out the procedure at SUHT
He works closely with the gynaecologists, particularly Adam Moors and Nigel Saunders. They ensure that women with fibroids are made aware of all of their treatment options and refer them to Dr Hacking if they choose UFE.
Another interventional radiologist, Tim Bryant, works with Dr Hacking in UFE, the management of obsetric bleeding and uroradiology.
Like most women who are treated with fibroid embolisation, Tendai only spent one night in hospital after the procedure. Scans show that just three months later, all of the fibroids had died and the largest was half the size it had been before the embolisation.
Tendai said: “I don’t remember much about the procedure, but I was back to normal within a week. I can now get back into clothes that didn’t fit me before. Everyone at church is amazed by the success and I want to let other women know about this option.”
This story was first published in Connect magazine.