It never fails, and you can probably relate. It’s Saturday morning, and you’re finally ready to tackle that simple job around the house that’s been nagging at you for weeks. But in the process of hanging that antique chandelier, you chip the drywall on the ceiling and damage the chair you were standing on. In some ways, medical treatment can be the same process. You achieve the big goal, but there are often side effects, like scarring and recovery, to consider.
That’s the beauty of newer, more targeted treatments that don’t even break the skin. One undergoing study at Sunnybrook is called MRI-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound technology, or HIFU. It’s a mouthful, but offering great promise for women with fibroids that cause symptoms, like pain and heavy bleeding. (While many women have fibroids, only those that experience discomfort from these non-cancerous tumors need treatment.) The MRI maps out where the fibroids are in and around the uterus, and then a special computer system, built right into the table where the patient lays, zaps them through the skin, destroying them. It’s like guiding hot sunrays through a magnifying glass, burning the target in a series of hits.
It’s a welcome option to surgery or more invasive treatments. Sunnybrook is currently conducting trials on patients with fibroids, but HIFU could apply to many other areas as well, like reaching hard to reach tumors in the brain. In fact, Sunnybrook is researching the potential of a special helmet to do just that. Premier Dalton McGuinty got a first hand look last week, when the establishment of The Ontario Brain Institute was announced here at Sunnybrook. The helmet looks like a new-age version of an old-fashioned beauty salon dryer (yes, the large dome you pull over your head of curlers). But this device hopes to enhance health, not hair.
For now, the small fibroid study is showing great results. I recently met with one of the study participants in her home. She compared the size of her fibroid to a four-month pregnancy, causing symptoms like bloating and discomfort. The thought of undergoing surgery was something she wanted to avoid at all costs, so was happy to hear there was another avenue to explore. She said the procedure was relatively simple, and a few hours after surgery, was enjoying dinner out with friends. She was also back to work the next day. But the cherry on top was feeling relief from her symptoms almost instantly.
Of course no approach is perfect. HIFU won’t replace surgery or other approaches, but may be a great option for many patients. Like chandelier shopping, choice is always a great thing. And if the drywall remains intact, even better.
For more information on the fibroid study, contact Linda Gargaro (Linda.email@example.com), or call 416-480-6100, extension 2363.