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Women celebrating successful treatment of Fibroids with HIFU Technology

By Chijioke Iremeka
05 November 2022   |   2:25 am
Barely a year after High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) made its entrance into the country’s medical space for treatment of uterine fibroid and adenomyosis with bloodless surgery...

Barely a year after High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) made its entrance into the country’s medical space for treatment of uterine fibroid and adenomyosis with bloodless surgery, over 100 women have since been treated and had their fibroids and adenomyosis successfully removed.
This success is encouraging many more women, especially those that may be scared of open surgeries (invasive surgery), to opt for HIFU treatment in the country even as stakeholders are calling for spread of the treatment centre across the country for accessibility.
Celina Esowe, a resident of Lagos State, is one of the women celebrating the first anniversary of HIFU procedure for treatment of uterine fibroid in West Africa.
The woman, who had phobia for open surgery, later found this technique a perfect option for her ailment and is advising other fibroid patients to go for the cut-less procedure, after her successful surgery.
As part of awareness creation, Esowe spoke to The Guardian on her experiences.

“I used to go through serious menstrual pains and cramps with painful flow as well as heavy blood clots. This led me to seeking solutions across board and virtually going to places for an alternative to open surgery, which I was scared of.”

She said she got to know about the HIFU treatment on Facebook while she was searching for solutions and developed interest in it since she has had the feeling that a technology would bring another means of treating fibroid without open surgery someday.

“So, when I saw HIFU, I didn’t entertain any fear because I expected it. Eventually, when I came in contact with the expert, and with so many teachings about the HIFU, I was eager and I prayed that I would go through it successfully to get rid of the fibroid. There were no challenges for me because I wasn’t married yet.

“So, I went in for the surgery after I was thoroughly prepared by the professionals. Ever since I had the surgery, there have been tremendous positive changes. My menstrual period is normal now with less pain and zero blood clot. No more pelvic pain. I do not need to skip work because of menstruation. I’m more relaxed now. I’m more confident now.

“The technology is superb, very easy and safe, and I recommend that every woman with fibroid should go through it instead of the open surgery. I have passed through the process and it is very safe and time-efficient. No cut or blood transfusion. No scars as well.

“My life now is a testimony. A few months after the procedure, I’m already getting better and the symptoms have diminished. Though I had little discomfort, I’m very fine now. I’m hoping to have my children soon.

“The technology (HIFU) is God-sent for every woman. You just lie on the stomach while the machine locates and kills the tumour using ultrasound waves. It works like magic. One minute, you are down and the next minute, you are on your feet again with former symptoms disappearing one after the other,” Esowe explained.

Following the success of the non-invasive surgery, stakeholders across the country and in Diaspora are celebrating the first anniversary of its introduction in Nigeria. The stakeholders who witnessed the testimonies of the impact of this treatment method want establishment of specialist HIFU centres across the country to serve as places where all treatments relating to fibroid and adenomyosis would be administered successfully.

HIFU is a bloodless or non-invasive surgery for treatment of fibroids and adenomyosis. It uses real-time ultrasound and high-intensity ultrasound waves to generate localised heat to specifically target individual fibroid and destroy the cells.
Using this treatment method, in conjunction with image guidance, the physician will be able to heat and destroy the fibroid tissue without damaging nearby tissue or the tissues that the beam passes through on its way to the target.

Patricia Omoke was diagnosed with fibroids in 2018, though she had been living with them for long. She used to experience heavy and prolonged bleeding before she got a free HIFU treatment that ended her painful experience.

“My mensuration used to come with cramps, which stopped me from doing certain things each time it comes, because I have to struggle with heavy bleeding. When I went to the hospital to find out the cause, I was told that I had fibroids. I was asked to prepare for open surgery but I was scared. I was hoping for a miracle.

“Since the first scan, I started looking for a solution because I did not want surgery. I took supplements while researching online for an alternative treatment method. Last year, I got to know about this procedure on social media. I applied for the treatment at a centre and did the first scan. It was confirmed fibroid.

“I eventually went for the treatment on June 25, 2021. I cannot forget that experience. I was very nervous, being the first person. The moment I signed the consent form, I put my trust in God and went through the process of getting prepared.

“I didn’t even know when the procedure was done. I was actually asking one of the workers when the procedure would start. I had been made to understand that I should be prepared to withstand a temperature of 60 degrees or higher and I was preparing for that, only to be told that the procedure had been completed and was successful.

“I couldn’t believe it but I was so happy. It was a wonderful experience. The fibroid wasn’t brought out, there was nothing like cutting or scraping, the fibroid is killed by the heat and over time. The dead fibroid is passed out or absorbed by the body, depending on its position. The one that is in the system is passed out, while the one in the muscle is absorbed by the system. I have not had any complications. 

“After the surgery, I noticed that the persistent back pain I had been feeling had disappeared. As soon as I got up from the table, I discovered that I didn’t feel the pain anymore. The second thing was that I wasn’t feeling the fibroid itself again. I no longer feel it while breathing and there is no discolouration on my skin from the laser.” 

The Guardian gathered that this technique was first introduced in 2002 at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom (UK). Since then, it has spread to over 28 countries and regions, successfully treating over 150, 000 cases of benign and malignant tumours.

With the introduction of HIFU treatment system in Nigeria, women with benign uterine diseases are being treated in an incision-less, no-bleeding, and non-invasive manner and their uteri and fertility are preserved.

A consultant Surgeon and at Epe General Hospital, Epe, Lagos, Dr. Cynthia Okafor, recounted the case of a patient who was dressed and wheeled into the theatre for an open surgery to remove fibroids but jumped out of the couch on seeing the surgical equipment, screaming that she would die.

“Since March 12, 2016, when the woman ran away from the hospital, she has been losing blood and is yet to become pregnant. She’s hoping for a miracle and I pray she finds one. Hers is massive and she can’t have a baby except for a miracle,” the surgeon said.

However, hope is brightened for the likes of this scared patient with the coming on board of this technology for treatment of fibroids.

The Journal of Advances in Medicine and Medical Research reported that the prevalence of infertility ranged from 20 per cent to 25 per cent among couples across Nigeria in 2018. It was ranked as the 5th highest serious global disability as the prevalence ranged from about six per cent to over 16 per cent across nations of the world.

Here in Lagos, the facility has treated women from all works of life. The team said they are delighted every time a woman walks into the facility with fibroids and or adenomyosis and leaves a few hours later devoid of the torment of her ailment.

“The relief we see on their faces gives us joy that the investment we have made in this area of uterine fibroid management is bringing relief to our womenfolk who would ordinarily have been scared of open surgery, and may have decided to live their lives with the pain, discomfort and blood loss. We have saved many women from the risk of blood transfusion, anaesthesia and loss of man hours at work,” a consultant Ostertrician/Gynaecologist, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi said.

Ajayi hailed the technology, saying that the centre had saved many women from the risk of blood transfusion, anaesthesia and loss of man-hours at work.

“It is a call for us to reach out to more women living in Nigeria and the West Africa sub-region to take advantage of HIFU and improve the quality of their lives despite the realities that medical practice faces, including rising energy costs, skyrocketing foreign exchange rates and the myriad of infrastructural challenges in the country,” he said.

“We are more resolved at focusing our attention on expanding our scope of operations to cover other locations in Nigeria. It is a call to service. It means we are committed to working tirelessly to help more women to access the technology to deal with fibroids,” he added.

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