It All Started With Pain: Fibroids in the Uterus

  • 23 Dec 2019

An all-rounder with a busy lifestyle, Elsje E. Gunawan is dedicated in all her roles. From a director running an international trading company alongside her husband, she is also a wife, mother of two children and a volunteer to many regional missionaries.

Pain Affecting Daily Life

Elsje, in her mid-50s started feeling pain arising from her right abdomen. The pain affected the surrounding areas unexpectedly at various intensity and frequency, during different times in the day. A check with her gastroenteritis doctor ruled out bowel related issues and she was advised to consult with her gynaecologist instead.

Growths Inside and Outside the Uterus

Her gynaecologist who delivered her second child 19 years ago, Dr Lee Keen Whye, diagnosed a fibroid within her uterus which is causing the pain. Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumours that grow along or within the walls of the uterus and may occur in 25% to 50% of women during their reproductive years. Furthermore, a fibroid polyp was also found inside her uterus, which is more complicated as it may potentially lead to heavy menses and a risk of cancer.

According to Dr Lee, “Elsje had anaemia due to heavy menses. Hence, the first surgery was done via hysteroscopy to resect out the fibroid polyp within her uterus and at the same time to perform a biopsy on the polyp to ensure that the growth is non-cancerous. Hysteroscopy helps to preserve her uterus as it does not involve cuts on her skin or abdomen.”

For the second procedure to treat the fibroid within the uterine body, Elsje elected for the High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment at Farrer Park Hospital. HIFU is a non-invasive procedure that uses focused ultrasound to generate heat to treat the affected area. “HIFU ablates the fibroids to stop their growths and gradually shrinks them over time. This non-invasive procedure allowed her to be discharged the next day and go back to her normal activities much earlier,” explained Dr Lee.

Preparation and Pain Management

To prevent gas build-up in her body which may affect the accuracy of the treatment, Elsje was restricted to a liquid diet prior to the procedure. On the day before the actual treatment, she also had to undergo bowel preparation. For pain management, Elsje had to coordinate with her anaesthetist to identify the two specific sensations that should not be felt – intense electric shock or numbness of the thigh area.

Fulfilling Life

Elsje believes in giving back to the community and contributing to missionaries focused on education and proper healthcare. “I wish for the young generation here to recognise how blessed we are and to learn gratitude by helping those in need,” she remarked. A true survivor at heart, Elsje’s recovery allowed her to continue with her fast-paced lifestyle as she jets off for a series of family and business trips.